I have a great Devotional Bible, written by Max Lucado. I’ve been reading as much as I can, when I can, which isn’t as much as I’d like.
In the sidebars, for each chapter, there is a Life Lesson that covers five areas:
#1) Situation: where the author covers what is going on in the chapter, in context, a bit of a history lesson.
#2) Observation: this explains the point of the action. What truth is noticeable in the actions of the people in that chapter?
#3) Inspiration: where a point or lesson found in that chapter is amplified and given a contemporary message.
#4) Application: I love this part! It’s where the message comes home. It’s the “How can I use this in my life today?” part.
#5: Exploration: lists other Scriptures that would relate the same theme from the chapter.
The other day I was reading through a few chapters in the book of Acts when I came across a great Life Lesson. It was from Acts 14:1-28 where Paul and Barnabas have been expelled from Antioch. They traveled into Iconium, Lystra and Derbe to preach the Gospel – performing great miracles. That sounds so fun and wonderful and amazing and yet people hated them and opposed them in every city they went to. The great thing is… they didn’t quit! They had people trying to kill them… but THEY DIDN’T QUIT!
I have been thinking about this topic of quitting for weeks now and in particular how easy people in today’s society seem to quit things so quickly! Relationships, jobs, churches, hobbies, promises, resolutions, etc. When things get tough…. they bail.
My 12 yr old DS struggles with this one, when homework got too tough last week, he wanted to quit school. My 8 yr old DS doesn’t even start a project because he thinks he’ll fail at it, so why bother. I know people who have had dozens of different jobs in the last couple of years, rather than confronting an issue, they quit and move on. Just watch a celebrity “news” show and see who is leaving who. It’s not just celebrities… I have people in my own sphere of influence who have said, “This is too hard” and have walked out on their spouses. Same goes on in Churches. Heck, things got tough last year and because of what was going on I had to fight the feelings of packing up and heading out! Why?! Why is it so easy to give up?!
Then I read the Inspiration part of the devotional for Acts 14, written by Charles Swindoll in his devotional, “Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life”. I thought it was awesome and I wanted to share it with you.
I fear our generation has come dangerously near the “I’m-getting-tired-so-let’s-quit” mentality. And not just in the spiritual realm. Dieting is a discipline, so we stay fat. Finishing school is a hassle, so we bail out. Cultivating a close relationship is painful, so we back off. Getting a book written is demanding, so we stop short. Working through conflicts in marriage is a tiring struggle, so we walk away. Sticking with an occupation is tough, so we start looking elsewhere…
Ignace Jan Paderewski, the famous composer-pianist, was scheduled to perform at a great concert hall in America. It was an evening to remember – black tuxedos and long evening dresses, a high society extravaganza. Present in the audience that evening was a mother with her fidgety nine-year-old son. Weary of waiting, he squirmed constantly in his seat. His mother was in hopes that her boy would be encouraged to practice the piano if he could just hear the immortal Paderewski at the keyboard. So – against his wishes – he had come.
As she turned to talk with friends, her son could stay seated no longer. He slipped away from her side, strangely drawn to the ebony concert grand Steinway and its leather tufted stool, staring wide-eyed at the black and white keys. He placed his small, trembling fingers in the right location and began to play “chopsticks.” The roar of the crowd was hushed as hundreds of frowning faces turned in his direction. Irritated and embarrassed, they began to shout:
“Get that boy away from there!”
“Who’d bring a kid that young in here?”
“Where’s his mother?”
“Somebody stop him!”
Backstage, the master overheard the sounds out front and quickly put together in his mind what was happening. Hurriedly, he grabbed his coat and rushed toward the stage. Without one word of announcement he stooped over behind the boy, reached around both sides, and began to improvise a counter melody to harmonize and enhance “chopsticks.” As the two of them played together, Paderewski kept whispering in the boy’s ear:
“Keep going. Don’t quit, son. Keep on playing… don’t stop… don’t quit.”
And so it is with us. We hammer away on our project, which seems about as significant as “chopsticks” in a concert hall. And about the time we are ready to give up, along comes the Master, who leans over and whispers:
“Now keep going: don’t quit. Keep on… don’t stop; don’t quit.“
Big Picture Moment: What you’re experiencing or going through in the right-here-and-right-now that you don’t like, or are discouraged or feel totally sucky about, don’t give up, it is such a small blip in the entire scheme of things. If you quit, you’ll never know what you could become.
I received that advice from my host-mom when I was 17 years old while living in Japan. I was so homesick after a month or so and I wanted to go home so badly. My host-mom barely spoke English and really didn’t know me from Adam but she cared for me, you could tell she was trying to be a great mom. She came into my room one night, after hearing me crying for the umpteenth time, and drew a line on a piece of paper. While pointing at the line, she said with few words, “you life” with a thick Japanese accent. Then she drew a little dot at about the 1/3 mark on the line and said, “you now” and continued to bring attention to the line that continued much farther down the page and said, “you future”. She was saying that my time in Japan was a blip in the full scheme of life, such a small time. I needed to enjoy it while I had it because soon enough it would be over.
That has been my motto ever since. Life IS hard but it’s fleeting and what we think we are going through will never end… but it will before we know it.
So what can we learn from Paul and Barnabas and their determination not to give up, no matter what?! They understood the bigger picture, their god-given higher calling would not let them quit! What was the bigger picture for them? Advancing the Kingdom of God by bringing the message of the Gospel to all people, it didn’t matter if those people were nice or not. It was never about them, their feelings or their needs. It was about the bigger picture!
You may be hurting right now or have something you think you’ve failed at and you are ready to give up, remember there is a bigger picture! God promises to help us through it all if we are obedient to Him. God wants you to get back on track and wants you to hold fast to the promise that He will see you through.
Don’t give up!