Sunday, September 13, 2009

Enough is Enought - I Quit

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, "I believed, and so I spoke," we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:1-18, ESV)
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On August 9, 1914, explorer Ernest Shackleton and 27 hand-selected men embarked on a trek to reach the South Pole. The men would travel half way around the globe only to end up stranded in an ice flow. They watched as their ship, stuck fast, was heaved and crushed. Through an amazing turn of events and a story worthy of their ship’s name, The Endurance, Shackleton and two of his team finally arrive at a whaling outpost on May 20, 1916 and initiate the final rescue of all of their comrades. Quitting, even in the midst of the direst circumstances, obviously never entered their minds.

We won’t likely face the extremes that Shackleton’s party did. However, to us, our problems will seem every bit as weighty and intense. We will examine and re-examine what has happened, what is happening, and project into the future what we think might happen. We will struggle, fall, weep, and get up only to struggle and fall again. This much is certain, the Crooked Path has much treacherous ground and we will have to cover it. Our Bible and our Lord declared we would have “much tribulation” in this world and we certainly can see the effects around us.

But Paul offers another promise. He exhorts us not to yell “I quit!” because these troubles that surround us are, as our passage states quite clearly, “light and momentary.” Yes, we are of frail bodies and weak minds, but that is only the temporal vessel of our eternal soul. And that eternal soul is what God considers to be of interest and value.

“But wait,” you counter, “these difficulties are FAR from insignificant to me.” And you go about citing political unrest, economic difficulty, war, and a host of other headlines from today’s news. Paul counters (in verses 5 and 6) that we still should not lose heart because our place is to proclaim Christ, and He conquers all things. This is exactly what the Master said to his disciples in John 14 when He exhorted them not to be troubled or afraid.

And, to be certain, this is a promise of enduring power. God is not attempting to pull some bait and switch on us. There is no secret formula we must labor to discover. He has not stopped paying attention to us or lost interest in our lives. He remains constant and sovereign above all else … and that must give us strength to endure what we must endure. It is in our weakness He shows Himself strong.
So, when the crooked path becomes too difficult and I want to scream “I Quit!” it is likely I’ve forgotten Who has ordained the path and Who walks it with me. If God calls these troubles “light and momentary” it is because He sees beyond them to the person I will become. He sees the unseen, and that is of great comfort. My part is to surrender, and that doesn’t mean to deny the pain or make light of it. And in surrendering, I grow to trust His goodness all over again … and the troubles seem a little less troublesome.
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  1. What difficulties are facing you right now? Is your vision of God big enough to view them as “light and momentary”?
  2. Are you in a position to trust God completely? Can you rest in his goodness even when “good” doesn’t look like you thought it should?
  3. Are you willing to endure and not be troubled? Is your relationship with God based on the seen or the unseen? Can you give it all over to Him and stop fretting about your “rescue”?

ESV - Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

  1. Mark, You picked a great illustration in Shackelton! Good post!