US Senate Chaplain Barry Black Sermon: Staying Power (Oakwood College Graduation)

Posted by Samuel Kadyakale  |  at  13:28 No comments

Below is a powerful sermon titled, Staying Power delivered by then chaplain and Navy Lieutenant Commander, Barry Black in 1985 at the Oakwood College Graduation Baccalaureate. 

Prayer and Introduction Before The Barry Black Sermon.

Please stand for prayer and bow your heads. Lord in the  solemnity and dignity of this hour we come to thee. As parents, friends and relatives we present to you the 1985 graduating class of Oakwood College.

As they enter their harvest field in their chosen profession we pray that you will guard them as the apple of your eye and hide them in the shadow of your wings from the violent attack of the wicked. May they have wisdom from thee and power.

Help them to view the world and its people with only love filled eyes. Guide them that they may grow in understanding and nurture them that they may follow your guiding light all the days of their lives. Amen. 

Introduction by Benjamin Reaves, then President of Oakwood College: Sensing the import of this weekend the graduating class of 1985 wanted a man who had the courageous commitment to venture into uncharted career waters. And as the program makes it clear they found one.

Sensing the import of this occasion they wanted a man committed to intellectual excellence and as the program makes it clear they found one.

Sensing the import of this service they wanted a man of youthful years and mature accomplishments the program makes it clear that they found one.

Sensing the import of this moment they wanted a man whose life evidences that the mind of the Master is the master of his mind. The program makes it clear they found one.

But sensing the import of the Sabbath they also wanted a man who could stand in this pulpit and in the power of Almighty God preach! the sermon will make it clear. They found one in our Baccalaureate speaker, Chaplain and Navy lieutenant commander Barry C Black. 

Barry Black Black Sermon, Staying Power

Let us pray. Father rescue the words which will be spoken from the merely trivial the purely occasional. Save what will be said from the purely pedantic, the merely pretty. Let the words of my mouth and meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight. O God our rock and our redeemer, these are your sons and daughters members of the class of 1985 await a word from you. Disappoint us not in Jesus name. Amen. 
Barry C Black

I want to talk about staying power. It is a great honor for me to be given the opportunity of participating in this grand Baccalaureate service.  I want to thank my friend, Dr Reaves for his warm and eloquent introduction. 

Several years ago your president, Dr Rock delivered a memorable baccalaureate sermon entitled "let us make man". He began by suggesting that baccalaureates are times for marching orders and the keynote speaker is simply a soldier and I might add a sailor who is called from his or her post of  responsibility to give encouragement to the graduates. 

I thank the college for inviting me from my duty station at the Naval Training Center in San Diego California to give some battle directives which hopefully will benefit you in the challenging days ahead. 

I well remember my four years of basic training here at Oakwood. I departed from this campus and entered the war eager to make my mark for Christ. Today I return battle scarred but undaunted. 

I come to give a challenge distilled from the lives of conquering war heros and heroines. My message in capsule form is this: One of the greatest attributes needed for success on life's battlefield is staying power. 

This ability to not be discouraged or diverted as you fight the battles of life has helped people change the world. It has  often frustrated the plans of Satan, our enemy. The ability to persevere can mean the difference between victory and defeat in the war that will decide our eternal destiny. No matter what vocation you choose to enter staying power will be a powerful weapon. We need such a weapon in times like these. 

During the American Revolution Thom Payne wrote, "these are the times that try men's souls". Nearly a century later Charles Dickens editorializing upon his day said it was the best of times it was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.

I leave to you the diagnosis of our present day and times suffice it to say, the prognosis seems ominous. We are at war.

Humankind globally is spending a billion dollars a day on weapons of destruction. Our planet's natural resources are being depleted, plant and animal species are becoming extinct. Our air and water are polluted. People are afraid as an epidemic of violence spreads through our land. We are at war.

In times like these we need strong endings as well as fantastic beginnings. I used to run the 100 yards dash when I was here at Oakwood and I was the fastest starter in the school but  I had trouble around the 70 yard line and you know what happens. We need some fantastic finishers.

In log splitting every blow of the axe is important but it the last blow that really counts. He or she who endures to the end shall be saved. We need staying power.

One of our spiritual generals, Ellen White wrote in the 5th volume of the testimonies page 3 or 4, "The persevering fidelity as was possessed by these saints of God [Caleb, Hannah, and Dorcas] is rare; yet the church cannot prosper without it".

The cause does not need unreliable people. For there is always a call for steadfast God fearing workers who will not faint in the day of adversity.

I am thankful the Bible contains the deeds of people who refused to buckle in the day of adversity. Abel and Enoch, Noah and Abraham, Ruth and Rahab, David and Daniel, shut lion's mouths, put out fierce fires and died under torture in order to be raised to a better life.

Members of the class of 1985 go thou and do likewise.

You don't even to look to the scriptures. You can look at some of the names on the buildings around here. You can look at some of the luminaries in your midst and find example of staying power. 

Men and women in secular arenas have also left us models of steadfastness. Many may have started slowly or experienced setbacks but with perseverance achieved.

Harriet Tubman for example was born a slave and never learned to read or write. She was handicapped by her sex and race. But with perseverance this woman who was described as strong as a man, brave as a lion and cunning as a fox became the leading conductor of the underground railroad over which thousands of nameless slaves fled from bondage. 

Many similar case can be cited.

Daniel Hale Williams was eleven when his father died and Williams was forced to make a living on his own. As the years passed he labored as an apprentice shoemaker, a barber but always with a burning desire to be a medical doctor.

With the help of some friends she completed Chicago Medical College in 1883. At that time no hospital in Chicago would permit black physicians to use their facilities.

In 1891 against great odds and almost singlehandedly Dan Williams created Providence Hospital. It would be used by black and white doctors thus hastening the end to operations performed on couches and kitchen tables in crowded tenements on Chicago south side.
Daniel Hale Williams

Dan Williams who was the first person to successfully and operation on the human heart had staying power.

The story of one of America's finest actors is likewise a saga of dogged perseverance. He was born of West Indian parents in Miami but moved to the Bahamas where he attended school for less than two years.

In an effort to help his siblings he set out for New York city with a dollar 50 cents cash and the clothes on his back. Once in New York he found the going tough. He worked as a dishwasher, an odd jobs person. Once he was reduced to sleeping on a Harlem rooftop covering himself with newspaper. 

In 1945 he mustered courage and auditioned for membership in the American Negro Theatre but was rejected because of his thick West Indian accent. He taught himself to speak American English by listening to the radio for six months.

He again auditioned for the American Negro Theatre and was accepted. The rest is history. He became the first black person to receive an Academy award for best actor of the year. Sidney Poitier refused to quit. 
Sidney Poitier, Best Actor Oscar winner 1964

One of the greatest illusions is that only talent counts in achieving excellence. You members of the class of 1985 who believe this and who equate scores with intelligence and capacity may come to expect too little of yourselves.

If I had believed my GI scores I would have never tried to get into the graduate school. But I knew then as I know even better now that if you can concentrate upon a single task and persevere tirelessly there are no limits to what you can accomplish by God's grace. 

The ability to persevere is illustrated graphically in the story of Jacob and Laban recorded in Genesis 29. Laban had two daughters Rachel and Leah.

The Bible says Rachel the younger girl was comely. Scholars tell us that means she was beautiful of face and form. Dangerous.[congregation laughs]

Now the Bible says the Leah was tender eyed. Scholars tell us that that means that either her eyes were the only attractive thing about her or she was cross eyed. Either way it was bad news. 

Jacob who was the son of Isaac fell in love with Rachel. Her pretty face and shapely figure so captured his heart that he agreed to work seven years for her father in order to earn the right to have her hand in marriage.

One of the most beautiful portraits of the staying power of human love is recorded in Genesis 29:20 which states, "and Jacob served seven years for Rachel but they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her".  

And I can identify with Jacob as I was being brought we passed by Moran hall, a warm girl came over because it was bad that I saw my wife beyond the steps. I knew she was the one. Let me tell you something  I would not even have waited seven years let alone work seven years even for her. Jacob had staying power.

The seven years passed it was time for the wedding. The bride was to be veiled from the beginning of the feast until the marriage was consummated. Laban used this custom to trick Jacob by putting Rachel's less attractive sister under the veil.

By some means and apparently with Leah's cooperation the deception was successful. Jacob did not discover what had happened until the morning after honeymoon night. He opened his eyes and did not see his lovely Rachel but her cross eyed older sister.

Jacob was furious. He had served Laban faithfully for seven years and wanted to know the reason for this deception.  Laban weakly explained, "now Jacob in my country, I don't know what you do where you come from, but here in Haran it is the custom that older girls should marry first."

Laban then proposed a way out of this predicament, "Now Jacob if you will finish out the  bridal week with Leah"- a seven day period in which the newlyweds ruled as king and queen over the festivities - "then you can have Rachel but you must agree to work seven more years as payment". Jacob agreed to these exorbitant terms and at the end of the of the bridal week the second marriage was consummated. 

Members of the class of '85 there are some lessons in this strange tale for you.

The first is you must be willing to work hard and long for the most cherished things in life. 

One of my favorite authors M Scott Peck has a book, The Road Less Traveled. He starts out with one sentence in the first paragraph, Life is difficult. A lot of us need to learn that.

I was talking on Memorial Day to a good friend of mine who teaches at North Carolina ANT and he said, "Barry I don't know many of the young folk at my college, they want it all and they want it all now. They want to live off campus and they want a nice apartment. And they say because mum and dad have nice furniture I want that too. And dad drives a nice car I want that too. They want things now forgetting that mom and dad it took 15 20 years to get many of these things". 

So we must be willing to work long and hard. This is a rule which is been understood by most successful people. Most people who have gained success learned to love their work and received enjoyment from applying to perfection of their talents.  Jacob had that attitude and that disposition. He had a devotion to a working goal and that's why he was ultimately successful. 

It was an easy for him to labor seven years in an effort to win Rachel. Working for Laban was hard. And Jacob was... when he met Rachel. In Genesis 31 versus 40 and 41 Jacob describes the austere nature of  his labors :

"Thus I was; in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep departed from mine eyes.

41 Thus have I been twenty years in thy house; I served thee fourteen years for thy two daughters, and six years for thy cattle: and thou hast changed my wages ten times". 

It wasn't easy.

For the first seven years of these years Rachel was so near yet so far. But Jacob would not let Laban extreme demand send him back to Palestine. He didn't say too many fish in the sea, I am going back home and find me somebody else. He wanted Rachel and would not trade long term gain for short term pleasure or the distant promise for an immediate mess of pottage. 

Jacob tenacious patience is a rebuke to our lack of staying power.  We want immediate solutions but some answers don't come without years of toil.

Wisdom does not come in one quick crammed course or a fulfilling vocation after a few days on the job.  Laudable goals may take seven years or more to accomplish but they will seem but a few days these years to those who have developed staying power.

The second lesson in this ancient story for you who are graduated is the best efforts do not always bring success. 

Hear the preacher! The best efforts do not always bring success.

Some of you plan to be doctors, attorney, evangelists and although you will be committed and dedicated you may still fail. After working seven years Jacob was tricked. All his diligence and perseverance appeared insufficient to win the prize. Forces beyond his control snatched away the jewels just as it was falling into his hands. Anticipation was transformed into agony. His dream became a nightmare.   

Sometimes we are forced to make the same disconcerting discovery Jacob made. Our plans may not succeed. Failure comes even when we have counted the cost and endured.  Faithful years of toil do not automatically produce a fruitful harvest. You may labor assiduously at your job and still miss that promotion. 

You may invest time and energy in your marriage and it may still fail. You may pray and study your bible and demonic forces still rage about your soul.

The assumption that seven years of labor will honor us a Rachel is a dream that often turns to ashes. How often we awake to the pain of divorce, unemployment, betrayal or defeat. How often we open our eyes in the morning to discover Leah.

The discovery of Leah brings one of life's crucial testing times. We have worked with diligent hope. This test of character finding a Leah has destroyed many. I have seen bitter folks because they woke up with Leah.

The acid test in life comes when we realize that life is not rewarded us with our first choice.  

The final lesson for you members of the class of '85 in this ancient tale is that one of the best ways of meeting with life's inevitable disappointments with a double portion of staying power.

"And Jacob worked yet another seven years".

I would have beaten Laban up and gone home. I mean if I had worked the first seven when he made the second offer he'd be going in. I'd be in jail today.  But Jacob redoubled his efforts to win Rachel working another seven years.

By accepting his Leah of frustration he eventually won  Rachel of his fulfillment. Life cannot be all victory but neither does it have to be all defeat. Some of our fondest dreams may never come true. Jacob never realised his fondest dream. Jacob's fondest dream was Rachel just the two of us. We can make it if we try, just the two of us. Come on now.

Bless your heart he never got that. But he came to realise that Leah was not going away. But he realised that he did not have to have all or nothing at all. There is a popular song that says give me all or nothing at all. That is popular sentiment but pure theology teaches that fulfillment must often coexist with frustration. 

Jacob as time passed that Leah was not such a bad buck. He developed a lasting appreciation for her. It was Leah who he buried at the place of honor in the family sepulchre at Machpelah. It was Leah who gave him Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Issachar, Zebulun, Dina and Judah. Out of whom came David and Jesus Christ son of the living God.

Sometimes we may experience failure. The challenge of life is to develop  the staying power needed to handle failure creatively. My young friends this will happen when like Jacob you learn to live with your Leahs. Those unsorted, unwelcome restrictions that hem you in.

For if you will work another seven years and another and another you may win your Rachel as well. And you may even come to see that your failures and frustrations were actually gifts of God bring you Reubens, Levis. Judahs and even a Savior. 

How do we get this staying power?

Staying power is not obtained merely by matriculating at a Christian institution.  Each of you came to Oakwood College  with a basic pattern of your life set fairly firm. In but rare instances does a Christian college change that basic pattern.

If you came to Oakwood with a desire to learn then you are about to leave with a will to continue this process of self education and with an intention to persevere.  But if you came to Oakwood without a sense of mission and if the thrill of learning has not captured your heart, you may have a tassel, a cap and a rob but you have not really grown. And you are not really prepared for the battle of life. But ready or not the battles come.

And no matter what your background and disposition I know someone who can give you staying power. That someone is greater than Jacob. As a matter of fact he's a friend of mine. 

He came to this planet seeking more than a Rachel. He came proclaiming redemption for humanity. With the patience of a farmer growing seed he labored in obscurity until the time was ripe. At the climactic moment, he went to Jerusalem to be greeted by adversaries far more sinister than Laban and to give his life as a ransom for all.

He could have resigned from the struggle. As a young man of thirty three, he didn't want to die. He didn't want to endure the agony of Gethsemane or the calvary. But in the words of Hebrews 12:2 he endured the cross, endured the cross despising the shame for the joy that was set before him.   

But I haven't told you my friend's name and I haven't told you how to meet him.  I know this is a dignified baccalaureate service and we are supposed to be sedate and cerebral but I love to talk about him. This friend of mine who can give you staying power, John 5:39 says the scriptures testify of him.  

Last evening the chaplain of your class in his response to the consecration message talked about the long years you've spent in Egypt. He talked about your hard taskmasters and term papers. Bless your heart when you leave this place you will be competing with individuals who have learned to love the term papers. As a matter of fact you will if you go into some programs have to turn out every week the equivalent of college term paper. And so you must learn to love  the difficult. You must learn to love burning the midnight oil.

But as you study be thinkers. I hope that your sacred reading will the Word of God for you can meet my friend in that word.  You can't turn anywhere in that book without bumping into him. 

In Genesis he is Shiloh.

In Exodus he is the IAM

In Numbers he is the stone sceptre.

In Deuteronomy he is the Rock.

In Joshua he is Captain of the Lord's Host.

In Job he is the redeemer.

In Psalms he is David's Lord and Shepherd.

In songs of Solomon he is the Beloved. I love to talk about him.

I heard Isaiah call him Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of peace.

Daniel called him the fourth man.

Micah says he is the one whose going forth of all is from everlasting to everlasting.

Bless your heart Hagai said says he is the Desire of all Nations.

Zechariah said he is the bread.

Malachi said he is the Messenger of the Covenant.

Matthew said, Savior

Mark said, Son of Man,

Luke said, the great physician.

John said the Word made flesh.

Acts said he is the Name above all names.

Thessalonians declare he is the one who will be seen in heaven with a shout and the voice of the archangel and the trump of God.

Hebrews said he is the Great High Priest touched with the feelings our infirmities.

Jude, he is able to keep you from falling and present you without fault, without blemish before the presence of his glory in triumphant joy and exaltation.  

I heard John say, I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day and saw him high and lifted up. He is alpha. He is Omega. He is the beginning. He is the ending.  

My friend will give you staying power. And if you only look to him the author and finisher of our faith you will be able to shout with the poet,

I want to let go, but I won't let go.
There are battles to fight,
By day and night,
For God and the right—
And I'll never let go.

I want to let go, but I won't let go.
I'm sick, tis true,
Worried and blue,
And worn through and through,
But I won't let go.

I want to let go, but I won't let go.
I will never yield!
What! Lie down on the field
And surrender my shield?
No, I'll never let go!

I want to let go, but I won't let go.
May this be my song:
"Mid legions of wrong—
Oh, God, keep me strong (Give me staying power)
That I may never let go!"

Author Unknown

Below is the audio version of this sermon for your listening pleasure. God bless you.

Also below is a video excerpt of this classic sermon.

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