I’ve had days in my life when I felt like giving up.
Have you ever had a day like that? Maybe it was only a moment, but you were disappointed, disheartened, and disillusioned.
I know God is good. But sometimes, life is hard.
What does God expect? Well, the word of the Lord is to persevere. The NT uses the words perseverance and endurance almost synonymously. The original language describes them as passive endurance and active persistence that presses on for the goal despite the difficulties. For Christians, it’s staying on course with your life purpose. Hebrews 12:1-2 gives us Jesus as the chief example.
The quality of enduring perseverance is a necessity for Christians. While salvation is by grace through faith, discipleship demands perseverance. The Spirit admonishes us through Hebrews 10 like this. “You have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise” (36).
Global Christians who have suffered genuine persecution have learned that real Christians are like nails. The harder you hit us, the deeper we go. And I can add, the deeper we go, the deeper we grow.
So, when your days are difficult, and your circumstances are challenging, how can you refocus your downcast soul? Lift up your head, oh child of God! “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith,” you can learn from His example.
You see, even though our Savior is fully God, He was fully human. His life was not always comfortable and pleasant. His circumstances were often painful. He was “a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). He “came unto His own and His own received Him not” (John 1:11). He was “tempted like as we are” (Hebrews 4:15). Nevertheless, He persevered!
Let’s look together at Luke 9:51-62. Here are 3 perseverance lessons you need to settle in your soul so you can successfully go forward.
1. Jesus lived by His Will, not His emotions.
Jesus decisively set out for Jerusalem. He “steadfastly set His face” (51). He was unmovable in His direction and purpose. Jerusalem meant His arrest, torture, and crucifixion, and His disciples tried to discourage Him from going that way. But living by His Will enabled Him to finish what He started. By His Will, He stood in agreement with the Triune God and said, “No one takes my life from me. I give my life of my own free will. I have the authority to give my life, and I have the authority to take my life back again. This is what my Father ordered me to do” (NOG, John 10:18). And in His victorious declaration from the Cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30), we see His final breath was lived by His Will and not His emotions.
It’s not that all emotions are bad. God created us with emotions. But we were not designed to be led by our emotions! Remember this, it’s not what you feel, but what you will that determines your success in life!
Noah didn’t feel like building an ark, but he did, and his family was saved.
Abraham didn’t feel like offering his only son Isaac. Still, he obeyed God and learned the meaning of Jehovah Jireh.
Moses didn’t feel like going to Egypt and confronting Pharaoh, but he went and saw the power of God displayed.
I’m sure Jesus didn’t feel like going to Calvary. He prayed, “let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39-42), and “He endured the cross.”
Jesus’s reply to the leper who ran to Him in Mark 1 sums it up. The leper said, “if you are willing,” and Jesus said, “I am willing” (41). The leper’s healing was because Jesus willed it.
Christian, your will must be surrendered to God’s Will. Your feelings must submit to your will. When you feel like giving up, live by His will, not your emotions. This leads us to the next lesson.
2. Jesus was proactive, not reactive.
He set out for Jerusalem. Despite the cost, He acted. Had He been a reactor, He would have retreated as a squatter. But as our proactive example, He walked by faith! As one songwriter said, “He could have called ten thousand angels, To destroy the world and set Him free,” but “He gave Himself to die, Salvation’s wondrous plan was done” (10,000 Angels).
Maybe it’s time to get up and start walking. 2 Kings 7 (3-11) tells us about four lepers who learned that success comes by being proactive. Sitting still leads to getting stuck in your feelings and becoming a reactive victim. But these lepers said, “Why sit we here until we die?” They took action to make things happen. When they started walking, they saw that God was working.
What have you set out to do in this lifetime? Are you still moving forward, or have you been distracted? We’ll all eventually die, but you can start living while you’re still alive.
Suppose the Atlanta Falcons offense says, “We’d make a first down, but the Carolina Panthers keep getting in our way. We’re driving 2 or 3 yards each play, but since they keep stopping us, we’re gonna stop playing. Our fans don’t believe in us.” We’d call them overpaid cowards. Why? Because the test of success is moving forward even if life is working against you.
Do not forget that life is full of opposition to distract you. Satan likes for you to be distracted from your God-given purposes. Distractions can lead you to live in your feelings as a reactor. In your heart, you become the victim of imagined offenses. And that internal dissent creates real division.
Regardless of your age, take action. Pray, plan, and be proactive. Don’t wait for life to be handed to you!
When you feel like giving up, be more proactive and less reactive. Finally,
3. Jesus counted the costs, not the rewards.
In verses 57-61, three men offered Jesus three excuses why they couldn’t follow Him. The first man is called Mr. Too Quick. He volunteered ahead of Jesus’ calling. He said, “I’ll follow You wherever You go.” Jesus knew his love for earthly comforts and told him to slow down and see the lack of comfort. The second man can be identified as Mr. Too Slow. He was called to “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first….” And as long as “me” and my earthly obligations come before Christ, you’re not really following Him. The third man resembles the first volunteer, but he’s Mr. Too Easy. He said, “I will follow You, but let me first….” This emotional response meant Jesus could not be His first love but would take a back seat to his earthly relationships (thoughts adapted from True Discipleship, by William MacDonald).
All three saw the immediate costs of completely following Christ as too much, so they missed out on the opportunity of a lifetime to walk with Jesus. But hear the summation Jesus declared. “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (62, NIV).
Let me say this again. While your salvation is by grace through faith, your discipleship demands perseverance.
But there’s good news when we weigh the cost of following Christ in light of Heaven’s rewards. Yes, we know there is eternal life waiting for Heaven’s residents.
Yes! There’s gonna be a payday, someday! But our focus should be less on the rewards and more on the simple and sacrificial journey of following Him. He promises that despite the costs, He’ll take care of all your needs.
When you feel like giving up, count the costs, not the rewards. But rest in this knowledge, “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).
So, what do you do when you feel like giving up?
Accept that forward progress is still progress. “By perseverance, the snail reached the Ark” (Charles Spurgeon).
Think of those who’ve already made it. Now, “let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
Evaluate yourself by these three questions. Are you living by your emotions, or are your decisions submitted to God’s will? Are you caught up in your feeling, living reactively instead of proactively? Lastly, have you decided to pay the cost of true discipleship and sincerely follow Jesus?
Take your exam to the Lord in prayer.