箴23:10-18 加6:1-18 赛49:8-51:16
Never Give Up
Sir Winston Churchill has been described as Britain’s greatest ever leader. He lived a long, heroic life and he rallied a nation with his inspiring rhetoric. One of the most striking parts of his biography is that he had to resign from the Admiralty during WWI over the failed Dardanelles campaign. He had failed spectacularly, yet he was to learn not to give up.
Legend has it that once, when he returned to his old school, Harrow, to address the boys, the whole school assembled to listen to his words of wisdom. The great man arose to speak: ‘Young men; never give up, never give up, never give up.’ The entire speech lasted only a few seconds. Then he sat down. No one present ever forgot his words.
That is, at least, the popular version of the story. Churchill did indeed say words to that effect, but as part of a longer speech. Towards the end of the speech he said, ‘Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.’
In today’s generation our lives have become so instantaneous that anything requiring patient perseverance can appear unattractive. We require instant returns and instant results. But sometimes the biggest pay-offs are a long time coming.
1. Never give up being enthusiastic
Proverbs 23:10-18‘Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord. There is surelya future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off’ (vv.17–18).
St Paul wrote something similar: ‘Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour’ (Romans 12:11). We should be as enthusiastic as the day we first encountered Jesus. As Bear Grylls says, ‘Be the most enthusiastic person you know. Enthusiasm sustains you when times are tough, encourages those around you and is totally infectious.’
Looking back through an old Bible, I see that many years ago I wrote in the margin next to these verses in Proverbs: ‘I am feeling rather envious of the people [my work colleagues at the time] and their work. This is the Lord’s word to me – not to be envious, but instead to be zealous for him – and he promises “a bright future” (Proverbs 23:18, GNB). Praise the Lord for that promise to cling to for my work.’
Lord, help me never to be lacking in zeal, but to keep my spiritual fervour. Keep me from envy. Thank you that you promise me ‘a bright future’.
2. Never give up doing good
Galatians 6:1-18‘Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up’ (v.9).
As Paul reached the end of this letter, he encouraged the Galatians to work together as a team. If someone is going off the path, seek to restore them gently (v.1a). But also watch yourself lest you be tempted (v.1b). You are responsible for your own life: ‘Each one should test his own actions… for each one should carry his own load’ (vv.4–5).
We also have a responsibility for other members of the team: ‘Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ’ (v.2).
Paul assumes we all have burdens. The word used means ‘heavy burdens’. It is a wide-ranging term that includes suffering, illnesses, physical disabilities, sorrows, grief, worries, responsibilities (financial and other), temptations, errors, doubts, weaknesses and failures (moral and other). In other words, it includes any and every load that is hard to bear.
One of the ways in which Jesus bears these burdens of yours is through human friendship. This was the way in which Titus helped to bear Paul’s burdens.
I like to be independent and self-sufficient, not relying on other people, but I am designed to be a burden to you and you are designed to be a burden to me: ‘Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ’ (v.2).
I can only say that in my own life I am so grateful to those close friends with whom we talk and pray regularly, who have helped us at times when the burdens have seemed too heavy for us to carry alone. We have been through many things together. We have suffered together and rejoiced together. All this has helped to spread the load.
The object of the team is to carry on sowing good seed. ‘People reap what they sow. Those who sow to please their sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; those who sow to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life’ (vv.7–8).
So, St Paul wrote to the Galatians, ‘Do not give up’ (v.9). The temptation is to become weary in doing good. But the promise is that you will reap a harvest if you do not give up. Take every opportunity to do good to all people, ‘especially to those who belong to the family of believers’ (v.10).
There are so many discouragements around. There are huge temptations to give up. When you sow a seed, you do not see the results immediately; it takes time. Sometimes, it’s only when we look back years later that we can see that the seed we have sown has finally borne a harvest. There are also many seeds sown about which we will know nothing until we see the harvest in heaven. One of the keys to staying positive is to keep an eternal perspective.
Paul never gave up preaching the simple message of the ‘cross of Christ’ (v.12). He kept on going and he kept on sowing. He refused to add or subtract from the message. He also refused to preach a more popular message in order to avoid persecution (v.12). As a result, he was persecuted. He wrote, ‘I bear on my body the marks of Jesus’ (v.17).
Lord, help me to keep on sowing, keep on doing good, and hold on to your promise that, at the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
3. Never give up trusting in God’s love
Isaiah 49:8-51:16Each morning, Isaiah waited on God to speak to him and to instruct him, so that he would know the right words to ‘sustain the weary’ – to encourage those who were tempted to give up (50:4).
In this passage, the way he did this was by speaking to them about God’s love for them. He spoke of God’s compassion (49:10–13), and he used five analogies for God’s love.
God loves you as a shepherd loves his sheep. God, as the shepherd of Israel, will lead his people back out of exile. In his love, he will make even obstacles serve his purpose: ‘I’ll make all my mountains into roads, turn them into a superhighway’ (v.11, MSG). Jesus picks up this picture of the good shepherd and applies it to himself (John 10:3–15).
God’s love for you is greater than any mother’s love for their child. The objection was raised that God would not restore his people (Isaiah 49:14). The prophet replies, ‘Can a mother forget the infant at her breast, walk away from the baby she bore? But even if mothers forget, I’d never forget you – never’ (v.15, MSG).
The Lord says, ‘I have indelibly imprinted (tattooed a picture of) you on the palm of each of My hands’ (v.16, AMP). The Babylonians used tattoos to remind them of the person they loved. God’s love and commitment to you is demonstrated by his engraving of you on the palms of his hands.
Another objection is raised that even God is not strong enough to bring about restoration (v.24). To this objection, the prophet replies that God’s love is like a conqueror (vv.25–26). He is strong enough to carry out his purposes for you and to fight against those who oppress you (v.25).
The people were saying God had divorced them because of their sins. God replies that although it was their weakness and their sin that caused the exile, God is able to restore them. He has not divorced them or sold them into slavery (50:1). No one is too far out of God’s reach. He is married to his people. His love for you is greater than the greatest love between a husband and a wife.
Isaiah urges people to keep on trusting in the Lord: ‘Those who hope in me will not be disappointed’ (49:23). God will rescue them through his suffering servant. ‘I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting. Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore, have I set my face like flint’ (50:6–7).
Jesus, knowing that he was going to be mocked and spat upon, set his face like flint and went to Jerusalem knowing that he would be crucified there. He was utterly determined. He did not give up. God vindicated him (v.8). The result was a great victory and a great harvest.
Lord, thank you that those who put their trust in you will never be disappointed. Help me to keep on trusting in your great love for me.