Why is it so easy to even give thought to those words? I’ve threatened to quit many, many times over in my mind, but thankfully, I have rarely given voice to those thoughts.
After some life experience, I’ve learned it’s better to be able to say, “I’ve finished the job,” or “I’ve done all that I can do,” rather than say “I quit.” The thought of giving up on an assignment before it’s completion has kept me going, perhaps even longer at times, than I should have. There are few things that stunt ones growth more than giving up or quitting before a season or assignment is done. Quitting a process before it’s completion has a way of affecting all areas of our lives. Once we give ourselves permission to give up before it’s time, it becomes easy to give ourselves permission to give up on other areas when we feel discouraged.
There’s a stark difference between quitting and finishing an assignment. What appears complete to you may not appear complete to others as they only see what’s on the surface. This is why it’s important not to judge others by what appears to be true for we don’t know the work that God is doing beneath the surface of someone’s life.
There are some things that we pursue in life that aren’t worth our time or energy because they weren’t God’s idea in the first place. These types of activities will deplete us of our energy and ability to give attention to our God-given destinies. Those are the things we must quit if we want to “live the dream” that God has dreamt for us.
Paul, in the book of Acts, is seen pursuing God’s assignment on his life after his life changed on the road to Damascus. He quit his life’s ambition of being a Pharisee and took up his call to bring the Gospel to the nations. He had invested years of study to be a Pharisee and after meeting Jesus, he was never the same. He is never seen looking back to “what might have been” had he lived his own dream.
As a Pharisee, Paul would have had a higher profile among his own people the Jews. He would have had respect, honor, enough food and clothing, and a home. I’m quite certain he would have had a more physically comfortable life as a Pharisee considering that as a Christian he was stoned, beaten, shipwrecked, snake bitten, imprisoned, misunderstood, rejected, and certainly sleep deprived among other things.
In his lifetime, Paul had one goal: to spread the Gospel among the nations. There were times it appears that he quit, such as leaving Lystra in Acts 14 after he was stoned and left for dead. There are other times when Paul is seen staying in the heat of persecution and others when he left. What is certain is that he never left fearfully or out of desperation, sometimes he left when he was released by God and other times the Spirit prevented from going to places he had planned to go to.
Acts 16:6-10 NKJ “Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.”
Was it a good idea for Paul and his colleagues to try to go to Asia? Apparently they thought it was a good idea as they were obviously intending to go until the Holy Spirit forbade them from going.
I have a vivid memory of a lesson on following the Holy Spirit that has never left me and I’m conscious of it until this day. I was driving in Dar Es Salaam one day looking for a lodge to house some guests who were coming to visit us. I was on a dual carriage road and heard in my heart, “Turn right, get off this road.” But I wanted to find this lodge and thought, “Just a bit farther, and then I’ll turn around.” When I finally couldn’t find the lodge, I pulled into the turning lane and waited to turn. Within seconds of my stopping in the turning lane, I heard a screeching of tires behind me and I looked in the rear view mirror in just enough time to see a large Toyota Land Cruiser headed right towards me on the drivers side. There was nothing I could do but say, “Jesus!” My little Daihatsu Rugger was not more than a tin can compared to the Land Cruiser, and the impact tossed me and my car into to the other side of the road. Thankfully I was unhurt (nor was my passenger) and the Land Cruiser was untouched – but my car suffered greatly. The door on the driver’s side was crushed but I could drive slowly home after the necessary accident forms were filled out. A long process, and an expensive one, ensued. Lesson learned? Listening and obeying will save lots of heartache!
Finishing a difficult task isn’t always easy, it’s equally difficult to detach from something we’re emotionally invested in. Emotions, like people, are fickle and not to be relied on – the only sure Guide is the One Whose thoughts are for our good. God’s ideas and plans for us are more than good, they are perfect. In the meanwhile, hang on, there’s more to the race than shipwrecks and quitting – were chasing the checkered flag. We’re in this to win!