Do you ever get discouraged? Are you ever tempted to just give up? I’m not talking about life in general, of course, but in regard to effecting a change, accomplishing a result, doing something good? You work and put in the effort and keep at it, but sometimes it just seems like nothing will ever change. Is this a correct assessment of the situation–or is it just our limited vision and lack of faith imposing itself on us?
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”(Galatians 6:9 NIV)
Life has its challenges. Granted, there are things no amount of effort will make any difference about. We cannot change our heredity, for example, or go back in time–sci fi notwithstanding. But other things–even those we might be tempted to think are hopeless–are not necessarily so. A cancer patient could be healed, an ADHD child might learn how to better cope with environmental stimuli, an unbelieving spouse can come to faith. But how can we tell the difference between the possible and the impossible–and when do we actually give up?
The answer is that God teaches us to never give up doing good, and He teaches us to pray. So, even as Elijah prayed and it didn’t rain for three months and prayed again and it did, God can alter–as a result of our prayer and His grace and guidance–many of the factors we typically think are fixed. I may assume, for example, that certain medical diagnoses are death sentences, but with the right care and much prayer a person could get well. I might be tempted to think a loved one is beyond help–either because of a rebellious heart or the lifestyle that stems from it–but through perseverant petitioning prayer (and the resulting activity–of which I may or may not be a part) they might “…come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:26 NIV). It IS possible–remember, Jesus Himself affirmed, “…with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26) So, what should we do? How are we to proceed?
The answer is self-evident: we must keep praying–earnestly and all the more–for the situation, and keep doing good. But what about situations that seem hopeless? What about those “common sense” says will not change? And is the absence of the result we hoped for evidence of not enough prayer on our part, or worse–of a lack of faith?
While it is true that what frequently limits us is our unbelief, there are situations God simply does say “no” to. Remember the Apostle Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” he asked God three times to take away? Do you recall the response? “And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.'” Paul’s response? “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (II Corinthians 12:9) He submitted.
Sometimes God really does say no. Sometimes a situation is an example of what the infinitely powerful God can do in and through a frail human being. But many other times it is we who cease our obligation of ceaselessly petitioning Him, and continuing doing good. But how can we know the difference?
I suspect that in most cases, rather than receiving a clear indication from God that this is for His purposes and glory, we simply give up. It takes too long, requires too much effort, doesn’t immediately generate the kind of response we hoped for, is hard, requires “too much” faithful perseverance on our part, or otherwise discourages us or truncates our peaceful existence or enjoyment of life. But we weren’t called to that–to an enjoyment of life–we were called to labor for God’s kingdom and for His purposes. So, let’s keep laboring. Let’s keep praying. And “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Help me never give up for Your kingdom and Your purposes. Amen.