GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICALS
Number 657 • July 8, 2021
IT’S TOO SOON TO QUIT – Part 2
On April 15, 2020 in my Personal Periodical, Number 515 I suggested It’s Too Soon to Quit. I’ve had a few conversations and several additional thoughts about that essay in which, for the most part, I tried to suggest that there may be a path forward, a way to success, even though the way seems dim and prior attempts have failed. We allow the discouragement of difficulties, setbacks, and failures to defeat us – but we aren’t always defeated: sometimes we just quit. Is there a way to keep going? We can be encouraged or discouraged by others. Our attitude and example will affect the outcome, for others as well as for ourselves. We who ought to be encouragers are sometimes discouragers who cause others to quit. The spiritual concern is the most important thing for us, the one thing above all others is to make sure the final outcome of our lives is with God, not without Him. As apostle Paul said, pressing toward the mark in the high upward calling of God (Philippians 3:12-14) should be the most urgent activity in our lives.
Jesus Christ is the way to success in the spiritual life we are called to live, in every good thing we are called upon to do. Hope is the incentive for going with Him all the way – not for a few present steps but for every step of the whole way. Don’t look at Jesus as only an interim guide, a shelter in a time of storm, a counselor or co-pilot for a present crisis. He is not someone who can keep you going until you are able to say, “It’s OK now Lord, I can take it from here.” He will never let you sit in the driver’s seat. He will never say, “OK, I’ve given you what you need to get this far; from here on you’re on your own.”
Maybe He wasn’t specific enough or explicit enough to convince some when he said, “I am the way” (John 14:6a). I’ve heard people say, “Well, he didn’t say he is the only way. He didn’t say other ways might not work successfully.” But here’s the answer to that, for the obtuse and willfully blind: He said, “I am the way” – that is singular and specific. He is not a way, not one of several possibly effective ways. His statement has the impact of “I am the only way to God.” It excludes all other ways. He nails it down firmly in the very next words. “Nobody comes (nobody is able to come) to God the Father by any way other than through me (John 14:6b). Yes, there are many ways presented by many professed and would-be leaders and guides. There are footprints of others who have passed the point where you now stand. Some paths are deep, indicating many have traveled in them and are even now walking in them. But only one is the true path. There are many points at which the various paths diverge and go in other ways, proving they cannot all arrive at the same destination.
I remember a motivational speaker – can’t remember his name but I remember his words and the impact they made on me and many others – who spoke about the ruts in the road and said, “Choose your ‘rut’ carefully. You’ll probably be in it for a long time, and you may never be able find your way out of it.” How wise! The longer you pursue the wrong path the more difficult it will be to get out of it and get into the right path. Even when you recognize it is wrong, even when you can see the right path and want to get into it, you may not be able to change, you may be hindered and prevented from making any change.
For the next few minutes I want to expand on the theme of don’t quit, keep going. I ask your indulgence and your forgiveness in advance – part of this is going to be personal, using myself to illustrate several points. But I think it will be typical of things you may be experiencing. Of course, my experience and my opinions – I like to call them my insights – prove nothing. But we can learn from the experiences of others, from their mistakes as well as their apparent successes and achievement. Hopefully, what I’ve learned, either by experience or from others, will be helpful, encouraging and reassuring to you – that is the only justification for presenting it.
I KNOW THE DISCOURAGEMENT OF THE FAILURE OF GOOD INTENTIONS.
A little girl was busily engaged with paper, colored pencils and crayons. When asked what she was doing she said, “I’m drawing a picture of God.” She was told, “But nobody knows what God looks like.” “Well,” she said confidently, “they will when I get finished.”
How many times I have planned to do a certain thing at a certain time – like diet or exercise, or clean out my garage – but never got around to doing it. I have planned, put together, and presented sermons or lectures or essays explaining complex and complicated matters but people didn’t understand them. Even though I intended to explain things I only managed to confuse the people who had to listen to them or read them.
I KNOW THE DISCOURAGEMENT OF FAILURE BECAUSE OF WRONG TOOLS.
You won’t break many stones, especially the big deeply embedded rocks, with a wooden club. You may work up a considerable sweat but you won’t have much to show for your toil and trouble. I have failed to communicate properly because I didn’t have – don’t have and can’t get – the communication methods, means, and technology that jaded inquirers demand these days. I remember a person feeling insulted because I said his work included a lot of “razzle-dazzle” graphics but not much applicable content about his assigned subject. I apologized for “judging.”
I KNOW THE DISCOURAGEMENT OF INSUFFICIENT ABILITY
You may have all the right tools but if you don’t know how to use them they will not increase your production. Remember the fellow in the comedy song who bought a powered chain saw but took it back to the seller and asked for a refund, complaining that it increased his actual labor and decreased his actual production – it just wouldn’t work. The seller said he’d have to test it before he could take it back. So he pushed the primer pump a couple of times then pulled quickly on the starter cord. Immediately it started up with a roar. The customer jumped back and said, with surprise and fear, “What’s that noise?” I also admit to being technologically challenged.
I KNOW THE DISCOURAGEMENT OF PERCEIVED LACK OF SUCCESS.
I have joked often about how many times I have quit preaching – I have not really quit, yet. But it is no joke that I’ve often been tempted to do so, thought I really should do so, and a few times even set the date – usually next week, or after my next mission trip, or after my next sermon, or the next time I got a “thumbs down” from anybody, or before the next test I would have to take.
I KNOW THE DISCOURAGEMENT OF A LACK OF ENCOURAGEMENT.
Have you ever felt that nobody cares? Like David: “Nobody cares what I do or don’t do, what I have or don’t have, what I have succeeded at or failed at, whether I am present or absent, whether I am headed for heaven or hell. Nobody cares for my soul – nobody cares for me” (Psalm 142:4). I wonder sometimes if anybody thinks I care about them, thinks that I am not an encourager and supporter for them.
I KNOW THE DISCOURAGEMENT OF “NO HOPE.”
Not hope in the sense of desire. We all “hope” – we wish for something good to come to us; we want it. True hope is the expectation of something yet to come, coupled with the desire for it to come. We may expect some things to happen that we do not want, that we dread and fervently wish will not happen. We “hope it doesn’t happen.” When what we do want and wish for doesn’t come, eventually we don’t expect it to come so we stop wanting it, stop trying to get it – even though it may be beneficial or even essential to our well-being.
I KNOW IT’S NOT TIME TO QUIT TRYING. SUCCESS IS STILL HOPED FOR.
There are things we haven’t tried yet. If we quit how can we encourage others not to quit? This is a time when we must lay aside every weight and the sin which entangles and hold us back, when we must run patiently the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2). Jesus is the way out of every sin and hindrance to faith and faithful living, the way in to the victory God wants us to have. It is now more important than ever that we draw near (to God and to each other) in full assurance of faith … holding fast the profession of our hope … Let us encourage (provoke) one another to love and good works … exhorting (encouraging, calling forth the best in) one another (Hebrews 10:22-25).