As I thought and prayed about what to share with you today there were many possible topics that crossed my mind. I even went through the file of messages I’ve preached in the past to see if there was something that would leap out at me and I could say, “Yes, that’s what God wants me to share”.
Although there were a number of texts and topics that were intriguing and I would have loved to preach, there still wasn’t anything with which I could confidently say, “Yes, that’s IT!” Then as I was praying yesterday I sensed the Spirit of God prompting me to read through 2 Corinthians. As I was reading through the letter that Paul wrote to the Corinthian church my attention was grabbed, and my spirit quickened as I read 2 Corinthians 4
READ FROM BIBLE 2 CORINTHIANS 4 (1-18) NLT
I believe that I am to encourage you today to never give up. Twice this phrase appears in this section of Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church. Twice Paul assures his readers that “we never give up” or as the NIV puts it, “we do not lose heart”. In spite of the difficulties, and trials and troubles that press in against Paul and those who serve with Him in sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ, they are triumphant as they declare that “we will not give up”!
How refreshing to hear in a world where giving up seems to be the usual behavior. Far too many people give up on their marriages, give up on their careers, give up on their families, give up on their churches, give up on their politicians, give up on their faith, give up on their integrity, even in some cases give up on their life. Few people rise above the crowd and are willing to fight for anything anymore. Far more people are willing to go with the crowd, blend in the background and “just make it” through life.
Now I don’t know why the spirit of God has impressed me to speak on this subject today. Certainly there were times as I prepared where I was tempted to give up on this text and move to something tamer and easier to work with. Nevertheless, I’ve chosen to be faithful to speak this today because I believe that there is a reason and it will encourage you, or challenge you in some way.
Let’s begin by asking the question,
What causes people to “give up”?
While there are a lot of reasons why people may give up, usually you narrow these down to one of five:
5. Lost Hope
What are some of the things we shouldn’t give up on?
– giving to worthy causes
– praying for the lost, praying as the Spirit prompts
1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ 4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!'” 6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
Luke 18:1-8 (NIV)
– sharing the gospel
2 Corinthians 4 is Paul’s reaffirmation that He will not give up sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
– gathering together
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:25 (NIV)
– keeping your integrity
5 I will never admit you are in the right; till I die, I will not deny my integrity. 6 I will maintain my righteousness and never let go of it; my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live.
Job 27:5-6 (NIV)
– caring for others, doing good
9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Galatians 6:9-10 (NIV)
– what God has planted in your heart (vision) and living for Him!
Why is it important to NEVER GIVE UP on these things?
To hate all roses; because you got scratched by one thorn.
To give up all your dreams; because one did not come true.
To lose faith in prayers; because one was not answered.
To give up on your efforts; because one of them failed.
To condemn all your friends; because one of them betrayed.
Not to believe in love; because someone was unfaithful.
Remember that, another chance may come up.
A new friend, a new love, a new life. Never give up on anything.
1. Those who give up will never know what the outcome could have been.
2. The truly valuable (whether it’s relationships, work, outcomes) ALWAYS cost something. It’s WORTH the fight!
3. God never gave up on YOU!!
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)
How can we keep from giving up?
Let’s look at some lessons we can learn from Paul about not giving up. He understood what it was like to sacrifice everything to fulfill God’s calling. He understood how being hurt, tired, afraid, too comfortable and seeming hopelessness can tempt you to give up on what’s important.
1. Learn to enjoy the grace of God
“Therefore, since God in his mercy has given us this new way, we never give up” (2 Cor. 4:1 NLT). Paul knew the only reason he was doing what he was doing was because of God’s grace. So often we hear Satan whispering in our ears that we’re not good enough, not smart enough, not gifted enough or have failed too many times to do what we are doing. We need to remember that God does everything to us, through us, and for us by grace through faith. It’s all a gift. God knows every stupid thing you’ve done and will ever do and He still wants you to finish what He’s started in you.
Give up the pretense that there’s anything you’ve done to earn what you have and where you are. But for the grace of God you would not even have what you have. If you don’t get this, you risk being caught in a performance trap that will tire you out, burn you up and tempt you to give up.
2. Be authentic
“Instead, we have renounced shameful secret things, not waling in deceit or distorting God’s message, but in God’s sight we commend ourselves to every person’s conscience by an open display of the truth” (2 Cor. 4:2 NLT) Paul is basically saying, “what you see is what you get”. He didn’t hide anything. If you’re going to last and not give up then you’ve got to be who God has made you to be. You’ve got to take off the mask. Don’t try to live your life on someone else’s script, if you do that you’ll always be afraid of being exposed and you’ll always live in stress. Don’t try to hide the problems, expose them, face them and work through them.
3. Remember it’s not about you
The more you focus on yourself, the more likely you’ll give up on the things of value when the going get’s tough. To truly last, you’ve got to check your motivation. The why always determines the what and the how long. You’ve got to constantly be asking the question, “Why am I doing what I’m doing?”
Twice in this passage (vs 5 and 11), Paul tells his readers why he does what he does – for Jesus’ sake. Why does he deal with the whippings, imprisonments, and criticism? For Jesus’ sake. His motivation isn’t his own well-being, but the global glory of God. And he’d do whatever it takes to see that expand.
In whatever you do folks, you’ve GOT to live for an audience of one. If you don’t get over the fear of criticism, or failure, you’ll probably end up giving up. It’s not about you,
4. Accept your own limitations
“Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7 NLT). Paul teaches we’re all fragile and breakable. And that’s a good thing. It’s through our weakness that others can see God’s power.
Unfortunately, we don’t like being clay pots. Instead we try to be invincible. The quickest path to giving up is to try to be Superman or Superwoman. You can’t do everything so it’s important you focus on the important. Even in that, learn to yield whatever it is you are doing to the provision and strength of God working through you.
On another tact, remember regrouping and rethinking and trying a new approach is not quitting.
5. Do everything out of love
“For all this is because of you, so that grace, extended through more and more people, may cause thanksgiving to overflow to God’s glory” (2 Corinthians 4:15 NLT). Paul says everything he does is for the benefit of others. He doesn’t do it for himself; he does it for others. He is motivated by love. It’s very hard to give up on something you are doing because of love – when you think of others before yourself. If you get this mixed up then you won’t last long.
6. Position yourself for renewal
“Therefore we do not give up; even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16 NLT). We’re all getting older and breaking down physically. We can slow the process, but we can’t reverse it. But we don’t have to break down internally. How do we avoid that? Paul says we get renewed “day by day”. Paul got recharged every day, and we should to.
Listen, you will quickly give up if you aren’t positioning yourself to be renewed regularly. You’ve got to divert daily, withdraw weekly, and abandon annually. Do something fun every day. Take a Sabbath day of rest every week. Get away for a vacation every year. Rest and recharge. The Sabbath is so important that God commands it right along with not lying and not killing people. You need rest if your are going to persevere.
Positioning for renewal also means learning to get into the presence of God. When you pray, when you read God’s word, when you praise Him you are positioning yourself for renewal.
7. Live in light of eternity
“For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen; for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17 NLT).
Remember Paul experienced all kinds of trials. He was beaten, shipwrecked, and criticized, but he called them just “momentary afflictions” Why? He had an eternal perspective.
That was Jesus’ perspective. The author of Hebrews tells us that Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before him. If we’re going to persevere and never give up then we must focus ourselves on eternity. When you have your eyes on eternity, your struggles will seem small. When you are focused on the prize, the problems will become insignificant. It is so easy to become wrapped up in what is seen, and felt in the present and lose sight of the future. But the future will never be reached if we give up. When you have your eyes on eternity, your struggles will seem small. Only he who sees the invisible can do the impossible!
I don’t know what worthy cause or pursuit God has placed before each one of you in this room of people today. But I do know that God’s message to you is to never give up. That worthwhile endeavor may not be reached today, it may not happen tomorrow but you’ve got to persevere and believe that your perseverance DOES matter.
When things go wrong as they sometimes will;
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill;
When the funds are low, and the debts are high
And you want to smile, but have to sigh;
When care is pressing you down a bit –
Rest if you must, but do not quit.
Success is failure turned inside out;
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt;
And you can never tell how close you are
It may be near when it seems so far;
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit –
It’s when things go wrong that you must not quit!