Don't give up! God has a purpose for you.
I think it would be safe to say that at one time or another, we have all been at the point where we have felt like giving up. Sometimes it is a momentary period of weakness after which we regain our strength and press on. Other times, the sense of hopelessness and despair might last for weeks or months. Often the process of giving up is preceded by one of two things: lack of success in our personal ministry or the weight of suffering. In fact, sometimes it can be both of those things together if your suffering leads to a perceived lack of success. So far as the notion of success is concerned, Christians are always trying to define it for themselves and their churches.
In many ways, it depends on what your measurement of success is. The picture in our mind revolves around how many people are involved and impacted – bigger churches, bigger stages, bigger book sales, bigger audiences must surely equal success! I don’t believe that is always accurate. In fact, in holding that view, there is often the creation of despondency within other sections of the church who then view their own personal ministry as ineffectual on the basis that most Christians will never preach, most will never appear in front of a massive audience, most will never be a revered missionary and most will never write a book. But does that mean that they are worthless to the work of God and should therefore not even try to run the race of faith? Absolutely not! I submit to you that it is not the size of the reach but the depth of it. In God’s economy, great things happen in secret – around kitchen tables, in living rooms, in prayer closets, over telephones and in neighbourhoods. The people who have the biggest impact on our lives are almost always those who personally invest in our lives. Don’t worry about whether the world knows your name and your works – God knows and that is what is most important. You just have to keep running.
Eric Liddell, heralded by the nickname “The Flying Scotsman”, was a man who gave his all for the race – both physical and spiritual. Eric only lived a short life – 43 years in total. After dedicating his life to missionary work, he died in relative anonymity after being captured by the Japanese during World War II and held in an internment camp. But so loved for his style of servant leadership, a fellow internee lovingly referred to him as “Jesus in running shoes.”
The reference to running shoes relates to his life prior to becoming a missionary. Eric gained notoriety when he refused to run the 100-metre race in the 1924 Paris Olympics because it was to be held on a Sunday. Well an alternative was found and he ended up competing in the 400-metre race and won gold, even though he wasn’t favoured to do well. If you have ever seen footage of Eric running, he adopted the most ungainly running style you would ever see in a professional athlete. He would run with his head flung backwards, barely able to see what was ahead. When asked how he knew where the finish line was, he simply replied, “the Lord guides me!”
Friends, no doubt many of us are, at this point, simply looking for the finish line. Many of the saints I encounter are all asking the same question – “how long, o Lord!?” We don’t know when the finish line is going to be upon us. But maybe Eric had the right idea – he never looked to a finish line – he looked to God. And he trusted that at the right pace and running the right line, God would carry him across it. In fact, when quizzed on his success at the 400-metre event, Eric simply said, “I run the first 200 metres as fast as I can. Then, for the second 200 metres, with God’s help, I run harder.”
· When you are weary and troubled, don’t give up, because 2 Corinthians 12:9 says: My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.
· When you have prayed and prayed and prayed for something, don’t give up because Luke 18:1 says that men always ought to pray and not lose heart;
· When the fiery darts of doubt strike at you, don’t give up because Ephesians 6:16 says, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.
· When the field of work the Lord has given to you is hard and seemingly without reward, don’t give up because Galatians 6:9 says: And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
· When your reputation is damaged because you remain faithful to Jesus, don’t give up because Matthew 5:11 says: Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
· When you labour repeatedly and your efforts go unnoticed, don’t give up because Matthew 6:4 says: your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.
· When you feel like you simply can’t go on anymore, don’t give up because Isaiah 40:29- 31 says: He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
In ancient Greece, runners competed in a relay race called a “lampadedromia”. In this race, runners held a torch in their hand and passed it on to the next runner until the final member of the team crossed the finish line. However, the race was unique in that the prize wasn’t awarded to the team that ran the fastest – it was awarded to the first team to reach the finish line with its torch still lit. There is a profound lesson there – it is important to pay attention to how you run the race to ensure your torch remains lit. You see, each runner had to have careful endurance – you couldn’t just be reckless with your torch otherwise it would go out. It would demand careful attention, perseverance and endurance until the race was finished. As Charles Spurgeon once quipped, it was by perseverance that the snail reached the Ark.
In the case of Eric Liddell, he won the 400-metre event because he did something that was unheard of – he sprinted the entire way. Friends, God may ask you to do something unheard of also – not for your own glory, but for His. But you might be tempted to say, “how can I ever do that?” That is when you turn to 2 Corinthians 12:9-10: My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Don’t give up. The Lord is with you. So run dear Christian, run. The finish line is growing closer every day.