As the first-born son of a military officer who was also an accomplished athlete, I was conditioned early on to become tenacious in all aspects of my life. The one area Dad did not stress was my schoolwork, after all he rose to the rank of colonel with but a ninth-grade education.
Fortunately, Mom stressed the importance of education and made certain I excelled in school as well. I’m thankful for parents who actually provided balance and oversight in my formative years.
Both Mom and Dad taught me to intensely attack the daily challenges of life. I’m deeply indebted to them and did my best to thank them while they were still with us.
Over the second half of my years on this planet, I’ve worked diligently toward taking tenacity to new heights. In my late-30s (my more rebellious years after two failed marriages), I recall securing my first personalized license plate — INTENZ 1 — my awkward attempt to describe how I wanted others to see me.
Yes, there certainly was an intensity, a tenacity, in how I was living in those days. Those were my Woodstock Singles Ski Club days and I need say no more. Pretty much everything centered on my selfish desires without much concern for others at all.
Fortunately, my life changed dramatically just a few months after my 40th birthday.
In Acts 9, we are presented the dramatic conversion of Saul of Tarsus on the Road to Damascus. My personal conversion was not that dramatic, but the change experienced after portraying Jesus in an Easter musical in 1984 will always be one of the most significant events in my life.
Soon after that experience I departed from my singles ski club existence, became focused on my new career as a life and health insurance agent, and married the love of my life, Janet. Gradually I assimilated into a lifestyle that I believe pleased my Savior and Lord.
Let’s return to Saul of Tarsus, now known as the Apostle Paul. The Lord took his tenacity in persecuting Christians and turned it into a zeal to not only follow Christ, but to passionately devote his life to the work of Christ and the glory of God.
Listen to these words of Paul found in Romans 9:3-4: “For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons, theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises.”
In essence, Paul was willing to relinquish his place in Heaven for his brothers and sisters of the Jewish faith. Certainly, he knew his salvation in Christ was secure, but he was obedient to God and committed to the cause of Christ to his very death.
Not long after Janet and I married, we purchased two new cars and we also secured new personalized license plates. I gladly traded in INTENZ 1 for ITHIEL 1 and ITHIEL 2. ITHIEL is a Hebrew word found twice in the Old Testament (Proverbs 30 and Nehemiah 11).
I first came across this name when I was still single in the Lord and quickly became enamored with its meaning = “God is with me.” I’m often asked what my license plate means and love sharing its meaning and explaining it’s an inclusive, not an exclusive word. After all, God sent His Son into this world for all mankind.
Through this journey, God has taken me from an intense, self-centered posture to one filled with a Christ-focused tenacity for others. I trust you, too, will experience His transformation in your life as well for His glory!
Passages to Ponder
— Jim Langley has been writing for more than 30 years while working as a life and health insurance agent in Santa Barbara. In recent years, his passion has turned to writing about his personal relationship with God, and his goal is to encourage others to draw near to Him as well. As a longtime member of CBMC of Santa Barbara (Christian Business Men’s Connection), he started writing Fourth Quarter Strategies columns in 2014, and he now reaches an international audience through the CBMC International devotional Monday Manna. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.