This article was written by Dr. Stan Norman, the President of Williams Baptist University in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas.
Prior to the holidays, I began a series of articles on what I call the Williams Way. Our mission is to prepare the people of the WBU community to engage our world – in spite of and because of – the trials, challenges, hardships, and troubles that regularly confront us. As I have come to learn the WBU story, I have seen these traits reflected over and over in the lives of the people who have been shaped by the Williams mission.
I have adopted the phrase “The Williams Way” to capture prominent biblical traits that have been true of the men and women who have in some way been influenced by our mission. Although the Williams Way has many expressions, I have identified five primary characteristics that I believe capture our mission. I believe these traits are essential for all of us to engage the challenges, trials, and issues that have and will continue to confront us.
The first trait of the Williams Way is “Christ-Center Purpose” (you can read about this at https://arkansasbaptist.org/post/the-williams-way-part-one/). A second tenet of the Williams Way is what I call “Unwavering Tenacity.” This term means that, when trials and tribulations come, we persevere. We persist – we stay the course – we do not quit. As I review the history of Williams, one of the compelling aspects of our story is the tenacity of the men and women who studied or worked here.
Dr. Williams founded what was then known as Southern Baptist College in the midst of the Great Depression and the World War II. Those who teach strategic planning will tell you that you don’t start a new venture, and you certainly don’t start a new institution of higher education, in the midst of the greatest economic downturn in modern history and in the largest military conflict in human history. Humanly speaking, you just don’t do that. Yet, God birthed in Dr. Williams’ heart a vision to start a distinctively Christ-centered college to train young men and women for service to God in the church and in society. Thus, the school that would one day be known as Williams Baptist University came into being in 1941.
Throughout our history, there were numerous times when the trails and troubles confronting the college were so great that the common sense thing to do would have been to close the school. After all, everyone would have understood if the school closed its doors – many Baptist schools in that day did. However, Dr. Williams refused to quit. In fact, I think that I can identify five significant challenges (if not more!) that confronted the fledgling school – challenges that, from a purely human perspective, seemed overwhelming and insurmountable.
Some of the trials and troubles were global in scope (wars and economic depression). Some troubles were regional obstacles (community leaders and politicians who opposed the existence of a Baptist college). Some troubles were potentially catastrophic (the fire of 1946). Some troubles and trials were persistent (ongoing financial struggles).
Early in our history, Dr. William instilled an unwavering tenacity into the very DNA of the school. In all of these trials, the leadership, the faculty, the staff, and the students refused to quit. These men and women embodied an unwavering tenacity to stay the course. They refused to relent in the face of great trials and challenges. This is part of the Williams Way – unwavering tenacity.
The Williams Way of unwavering tenacity is a biblical trait – a persistence sustained by God’s power and provision.
Hebrews 12:1-2: “Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
First Corinthians 15:58: “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
By the grace of God, those of us who presently serve at Williams strive to embody this unwavering tenacity. We aspire to be people who refuse to quit, even in the face of insurmountable odds and overwhelming challenges. And, we seek to instill unwavering tenacity in each of our students. We try to teach them, as well as model for them, this type of gospel determination.
Our present situation – the world in which we now live – daily tries and tests our faith. We are daily faced with the temptation to embrace fear and to quit- to embrace despair and defeat – to abandon our Christ-centered hope – to give up and quit the race before us. We daily face significant challenges that threaten our faithfulness to live and pursue the calling and vision that God has given to each of us.
My prayer is that each of us daily embrace unwavering tenacity. These are the days that need men and women of Christ-centered faith – men and women who refuse to quit. The challenges before us require us to be people with a determined faith to sustain us and move us forward in purposeful lives lived for God and in productive ministry for Christ. May the Lord fill you daily with His unwavering tenacity!