Quitter. Slacker. Wimp. Deserter. We don’t like people who give up just because something’s too hard. We teach our children not to give up in school – sure it’s difficult but that’s how you learn. We teach them not to give up in sports – gut it out, it’ll make a man out of you. And when they do give up we’re embarrassed, upset and even angry. We have a list of names for people who quit and none of them are complimentary. There’s just something about a person who gives up that rubs us the wrong way.
Unless, of course, it comes to our spiritual lives and then for some reason we have rationalized that it’s OK to give up. When life gets hard one of our first reactions is to give up in the realm of the spiritual. We give up on God. We give up on prayer. We give up on church. We give up on Bible reading. We give up on living by faith. We give up on faithfulness. We give up on the whole “religious” thing.
Why is that? Why do we think that it’s wrong for a person to give up in areas like school or sports but we think it’s OK for us to give up in the realm of the spiritual?
Over the weekend I went to my grandson’s age group swimming meet. He’s had one year of swimming lessons and a couple of months of competitive swimming so this is all new – and hard for him. He was put into a race with other swimmers his age, all whom appeared to have much more experience. It was the backstroke – two lengths of the pool, down and back. He started off well but it didn’t take too long to see that he was out of his league. By the time he reached the far end of the pool the other swimmers were already on their way to the finish. But he didn’t give up. He reached the end of the pool, turned around and headed for the finish, only the other swimmers were half a pool ahead of him. He didn’t give up. When he reached the middle of the pool the other swimmers had finished their race. He didn’t give up. He just kept swimming. He wasn’t flashy. He wasn’t going to win the race. He just kept going. He came in dead last. But he didn’t give up. He finished the race. I was so proud of him – not because he won but because he didn’t give up.
He reminded me that in the spiritual life we can’t give up. Yes, life is going to be hard. There will be times when we’ll be tempted to quit. Times when we’ll feel like God is not there. Times when it will seem like we’re all alone in our journey. The key is not to give up.
The Apostle Paul exhorts us to run with endurance the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1). There are those who have gone before us and have run the race without giving up (so great a cloud of witnesses – see Hebrews 11). Jesus is our goal and we need to keep our eyes on Him. He is also our great example. But we have to run. No one else can run your race for you. No one else can live your life or carry your burdens. It’s your race, it’s your life. You must run it with endurance.
It’s when life is the most difficult that we need to be reminded not to give up – to run with endurance. That’s when God your heavenly Father looks at you and His heart swells with pride (I do think that there is some truth in this idea based on Job 1:8).
Never, never, never give up. Just keep on running (or swimming).
Stay in the Word