What causes you to lose heart?
*Relationship conflicts that appear to be irreparable?
*Physical decline or unremitting pain?
*Career or personal goals that haven’t materialized?
*Rigorous opposition or unjust criticism?
*Despair over family members not following the faith?
*Discouragement over your own spiritual progress and daily battle with sin?
*Apparent lack of fruit in your ministry?
These are just some of the factors that demotivate us and make quitting seem like an attractive option. I’m not saying that the battle will ever be easy, but I do know from personal experience that certain biblical truths instill resiliency and massage one’s deflated heart. Today I’ll share with you a faith-sustaining truth that I’ve meditated on scores of times when I was on the verge of giving up.
Focus on Forever
If you’re a Christian, you’ve heard the criticism: Christians are too heavenly-minded to be of any earthly good.
Where I grew up in a rural area of western North Carolina, we have a word for such a statement: hogwash!
Quite the opposite is true. Many church members are far too earthly-minded to be of any heavenly good. So self-centered in their use of money that they give an anemic amount to Kingdom business through the church and missions. Too busy advancing in a career or enjoying a leisurely retirement to maintain a significant ministry in their local church or community. But the ironic truth is that a primary impetus for godliness, for evangelism, for serving the poor in the name of Christ, for emotional stamina, and for resiliency in life or ministry is a mind that regularly meditates on the promise of heaven.
Paul’s life provides a case in point. According to 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, five times he received 39 lashes. Three times foes beat him with rods. He was stoned, endured three shipwrecks, sleepless nights, days without food, nights without adequate protection from the cold, and harsh criticisms from false brethren. According to 2 Corinthians 1:8, these various external afflictions sometimes spawned internal discouragement. At one point, he said “we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life.”
But he didn’t lose heart.
After another reference to his trials and physical limitations in 2 Corinthians 4, Paul wrote, “I know that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you” (vs. 14). He added, “We do not lose heart, though our outer man is decaying, yet out inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (vs. 16-18).
Paul endured because he put the future into the present tense. His spirit was buoyed by the reality of heaven. He viewed current trials and pain through the lens of eternity, which prompted him to keep going. He realized that all afflictions and opposition were temporary. He could keep hanging on because of what he knew the future held for him. His heavenly-mindedness literally changed history and resulted in a whopping amount of earthly as well as eternal good.
Years before Paul wrote about his forever focus, Jesus insisted that heavenly-mindedness is the medicine needed for a troubled heart. He shared a truth that he knew would instill resiliency in his followers. They were facing Jesus’ bodily departure and ascension into heaven. “Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go and prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3). Belief in the eternal would spawn persistence in their ministries and give them a reason to endure trials of their own.
The author of Hebrews reinforced the strengthening truth of heaven. He told his readers, “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. ‘For in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay'” (Heb. 10:36-37).
Hang On A While Longer
A boxer, exhausted after eleven rounds of constantly giving and receiving punches, hears the bell for the final round. Three more minutes. He gets a second wind because he realizes the bout is almost over. He figures he can endure anything and keep throwing punches in light of awareness that there will soon be an end to his fatigue.
The distance runner, striding with lung-gasping, leg-cramping pain, doesn’t think he can continue. Then he turns a corner and sees the finish line a half mile ahead. There’s something about seeing the finish line that makes him think, “I can do this! I can win! I can push for a couple more minutes because it will soon be over!” Then he actually speeds up.
Similarly, the beleaguered Christ-follower who’s weary of being pummeled by temptation doesn’t cave in, because he knows this life is brief and the next one isn’t. He knows he could meet Jesus face to face any day. He knows that the same grace that has enabled him thus far will keep giving him the capacity to resist. He’s motivated toward purity because he realizes that there will someday be an end to the spiritual warfare.
The missionary or pastor who’s distraught over conflict or lack of observable results stays faithful because he lives expectantly. He’s aware of a deadline, of a finish line. Either physical death will usher him into Christ’s presence, or Christ will return, sparking a raucous celebration.
Our bodies won’t ache forever. Depression won’t always darken our spirits, leaving us either robotic or hyper-sensitive. Frustration over failure to please the Lord every day won’t always dog us. The tears generated by the devastating effects of sin will one day dry up. As Revelation 21:4 puts it, in the new heaven and new earth, “He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain.”
Hang on a little while longer. I’ve read my Bible from cover to cover numerous times, and despite the current stressors, we who know and serve Christ eventually win.
Can you see the finish line?
Sola Deo Gloria! Glory to God.