I remember so well the day I almost gave up.
We had experienced a major division within the church which looked completely unresolvable. The division was both doctrinal and personal. Twenty years of my life were about to go up in smoke and I could be out of work with no place to go.
It was garbage day. As I walked down the driveway carrying the garbage out, I realized two things. First, the only thing I had strength to do was to put one foot ahead of another and get the garbage to the end of the driveway. Second, that was in fact all that God required me to do that day.
And in that instant, I learned the first secret of never giving up. Don’t stop moving forward. It’s as simple as that. Why is this so critical? Because it’s the simplest way of acting as if you still believe God has a plan for your life. You may not know how he’s going to deliver you, and all your emotions may be shot to pieces, but deep in your spirit you still believe he is God and he will come through for you. Even if you can only move one small step ahead, just do it. The steps will add up, and eventually the darkness will begin to lift.
The strange thing is that it was something I loved -- the church -- that brought me to that place of of despair. I am convinced that both the problems and the answers for our lives often revolve around church. Let me try to explain.
The Bible presents the body of Christ as the place of healing. It is the place where we are loved and cared for, and also the place we are discipled and corrected. So far so good.
When people become Christians, they bring all their own baggage along with them. That includes you and me. It isn’t acceptable for us simply to complain about the problems people have. Church is the place where those problems begin to be fixed. In the process, a mess usually occurs. How could it not? This is where love and patience is required, just like in any family.
But when those problems are not handled with maturity and integrity, it isn’t long before the enemy shows up. That’s when the mess can turn into pain and hurt.
There is no such thing as a spiritual vacuum. If church stops becoming a healthy place where people receive healing, it quickly becomes a toxic place where people get hurt.
The devil does not play merely to win, he plays to destroy. The best strategy he has of winning is to destroy the place God designed for healing. In effect, he bombs the hospital.
If the first secret of not giving up is to keep moving forward, the second secret is not to give up on God’s plan for his church. That’s hard, because it involves believing for others, not just for yourself, and for others who may at this minute be hurting you. At that awful time, I cried out to the Lord to save the hospital and the people in it -- including me and my family. And he did. He acted very quickly and very powerfully. It was a supernatural intervention. To this day I give thanks for it.
I have watched with great dismay the shrapnel hitting people when churches or movements divide or break up. Why should we be surprised at the hurt that causes? What difference is it from the way children are affected for life when their parents break up? Family break-up is often caused by selfishness. How sad it is when the same selfishness invades the family of God. You can give up and walk away. But remember this. If you walk away and church implodes, who will be there to help you when you hit your own personal wall?
It takes a decision of the will to keep moving forward when things are very bleak in your own life. But if you do make that decision, God will come in behind it and help you. And it takes energy to step into the breach when the enemy is ripping your church apart. But if you do, God will come to your aid.
Bob Mumford once said these words to a room full of leaders: “There isn’t one of us here who hasn’t thought of giving up. The difference is some of us have not.”
The very point the battle is hardest, the point where you are tempted to give up, may be the moment the battle is about to turn.
Never give up. You won’t regret it.