Don't Give Up
Don’t Lose Heart
2 Corinthians 4:1-18
The New York City Transit Company was missing a bus and a driver some years ago. For over a week, authorities searched for the man but couldn’t find him. Finally, ten days later after the man had disappeared, he was found, bus included. IN MIAMI, FLORIDA!
The driver said, "I’d had it with the cold weather, the passengers, and my family! One day after I got off work, I thought, ‘I WONDER WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF I JUST TOOK OFF FROM DRIVING!’"
So, that’s what he did! He took off for Florida where he enjoyed the sun and surf for over a week, ALL BY HIMSELF!
HAVE YOU EVER FELT LIKE THAT? Haven’t we all felt like that bus driver at times? We get so frustrated and/or aggravated about life that we either want to pull our hair out or run away!
Maybe your marriage hasn’t gone the way you thought it would. It’s never like you dreamed it would be. But perhaps yours has really been poor at best. You’d tried so many different things to add some spark to your marriage, but nothing seemed to work. So you may have thought, "I wonder what would happen if I just took off for a few days and told no one where I was going?"
ILL.- That’s like the husband who said, "Some people ask the secret of our long marriage. We take time to go to a restaurant two times a week. A little candlelight dinner, soft music and a slow walk home. SHE GOES TUESDAYS AND I GO FRIDAYS."
Or maybe it’s your parenting that is getting you down. KIDS DO GET PARENTS DOWN!
ILL.- One mother said, "These children are nuts today. I have a child myself. He is 12 years old. He is going to be 13...IF I LET HIM!"
ILL.- A father came home from work one day, very exhausted and frustrated. He wanted to get some rest, but little Johnny kept pestering him and asking him questions, "Daddy, daddy, what do you do all day at work?" "Nothing!" shouted his father. After a long pause, little Johnny asked, "Well, daddy, how do you know when you’re through?!"
HAVE YOU EVER COME HOME FRUSTRATED AND EXHAUSTED OVER THINGS THAT HAPPENED AT WORK? Of course, you have! Who hasn’t? There no is such thing as a pain-free job! Every job or occupation has its drawbacks.
Brothers and sisters, life is full of pain and disappointment! We think things are going to be thus and so, and find out they are not what we expected at all! Bills pile up, health fails, marriages crumble, people hurt you or disappoint you, people are out to get you, criticize you, your job turns out to be a bummer, as do some people, etc.
And who knows? Perhaps there have been times when you have even thought about quitting the Christian life. You started out with high hopes of a better life, a happier life, a richer life and found it to be a lot tougher than you expected.
You may have thought all your problems would go away and they didn’t! Temptations were stronger than you expected. People were not always as helpful or as nice as you thought they would be. And you began to think after a period of time, "What’s the use in coming to church? Why not just drop out and do what everybody else in the world is doing?"
ILL.- The worst defeat in a college football game came on October 7, 1916, when Georgia Tech played Cumberland college of Kentucky and beat them 222 to 0! Wow! It’s on record! It’s a fact! It was said that Cumberland never made a first down. The much smaller Cumberland players were mauled. Halfway through the first half one of the Cumberland backs fumbled the ball.
As the ball rolled toward his teammate, he yelled out, "PICK IT UP! PICK IT UP!" The other player yelled back, "YOU PICK IT UP! YOU DROPPED IT."
Sometimes our situation in life seems so hopeless. We’ve dropped the ball and we don’t’ feel like picking it up again and running with it! We been knocked down time and time again, and we just want to quit the game!
Gal. 6:9 "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."
The people who seem to do well in life are not particularly the flashiest, or the most talented or the most materially blessed. They are the people who just don’t give up! They don’t quit doing good! They are dependable. They just keep on, keeping on! The apostle Paul was that kind of person.
Twice in II Corinthians chapter four Paul said, "We do not lose heart." That’s what we need! Somehow we must not lose heart in life! We need to discover Paul’s secret.
1. Purity of Motive (4.1-6)
a. Paul was honest. He served the Corinthian Church because of his love for Jesus Christ. Paul’s purity of motive enabled him to work with difficult people who falsely accused him of using deceptive and self-seeking methods in Christian ministry. If our motives are pure, we will have the perseverance to work with difficult people or difficult situations.
2. Presence of Christ 4.7-12
a. Although Paul had purity of motive, he admitted that his life was not always victoriously on the path toward his goals. Paul in fact admitted that he was overwhelmed and at times knocked down by life’s trials. We might say, "Wow, Paul must have been physically and psychologically strong."
b. The apostle Paul knew what it was to feel like giving up.
i. In 2 Corinthians 1:8, while he was being harassed and persecuted in the province of Asia, he said, "We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. We thought we were going to die! Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death." And in 2 Corinthians 2:4, when he learned about all of the problems the Corinthians were having, he said, "I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears." I want you to know that if you’ve ever felt like losing heart, you’re not alone! Even the great apostle Paul had to deal with despair and depression and discouragement.
ii. We read in the book of Acts that Paul, while in his missionary work, was beaten repeatedly. He was imprisoned. He was shipwrecked. His life was threatened constantly. He was falsely accused often. Yet, Paul didn’t fall apart emotionally or physically.
c. But Paul would tell you that he was like a clay pot that is easily broken. His ability to recover from the physical and emotional abuse, and yet not retaliate, was due to the presence of Jesus Christ in his life.
3. Power of Belief 4.13-15
a. Again, we see Paul’s motive is for the benefit of others and for the glory of God. But we see also a powerful faith at work. Paul speaks of and lives according to what he believes. Because of his belief that death is not final, but that there is the resurrection of the dead, he persevered in his ministry to the Corinthian Church.
Many of us have weak beliefs, and as a result, we don’t have the power to persevere. People are swept along by trends and popular vote. What was once wrong is now right or culturally accepted. As long as everybody else is doing it, Christians are getting divorced, Christians are cheating on taxes, and Christians are neglecting Sunday worship of God.
If you don’t have strong beliefs, you won’t have the power for flexible persistence. We’ve all heard about Thomas Edison, who performed 10,000 experiments before he perfected the incandescent light. He believed, and he persisted despite 9,999 failed attempts.
b. Jesus said in Matthew 25:21, "Whoever is faithful with a few will be put in charge of many more." Do you believe that?
c. To have the power of faith in our lives will help us overcome criticism, limiting thoughts and past failures. If you have a pure motive, the presence of Christ, and the power of belief, we can move to the next building block.
4. Promise of Return 4.16-18
a. Many people are afraid of using up their lives, and they never put their entire effort into anything. The fear of trouble, the fear of mistakes, the fear of criticisms or the fear of failure limits their willingness to persevere. Their motto in life is "No pain, no pain."
b. Paul was not one of them. Paul knew that if he sacrificed his life for God, God would raise him from the dead, just as God raised Jesus from the dead. He knew whatever he gave, he would receive in return in eternity with God.
c. When we accept God’s promise of return, we won’t hesitate in the face of trouble; we won’t quit when unexpected hardship comes, and we won’t withdraw when we make a mistake. We don’t even have to wait until heaven, but we can receive the promise of daily renewal, daily power, daily forgiveness and daily grace.
d. Paul J. Meyer wrote in Unlocking Your Legacy, "Cost and self-sacrifice do not make something hard. Nobody feels sorry for the athlete who wins an Olympic medal, even though the person paid an incredible price through grueling effort behind the scenes, denying himself or herself certain things, probably for several years, all for one hopeful brief moment of glory. The medal, once attained, minimizes every cost and self-sacrifice."
Meyer continues, "Following God is similar in many respects. There are costs and self-sacrifice to be made, but that does not mean it is hard to follow God. Hard is when you compete but never win, invest but lose everything, work but receive nothing for your efforts, and show love but receive hat in return.... When I compare my costs and self-sacrifices with what I have already received and will receive in return, my costs and self-sacrifices are insignificant!"
e. To have God’s promise of return in our lives will help us give of our time, money and efforts generously to accomplish what could not otherwise be accomplished.
If you have a pure motive, the presence of Christ, and the power of belief and the promise of return, you will not quit nor will you even recognize the possibility of defeat.
The only way to keep from losing heart is by putting your heart into God’s work. By being a sincere, sensitive, selfless servant of the Lord. By reaching out in Christian friendship to that lonely neighbor across the street. Or that quiet girl who sits all by herself at lunch. Or that foundry worker who’s going through a rough time.
When we take the time to minister to other people, it helps us to forget about our own problems for a while.
That’s what happened to Jesus in John chapter 4. Even though He was tired. And hungry. And thirsty. He took the time to minister to the woman at the well. And when the disciples came back to give Jesus something to eat, He said, "I have food to eat that you know nothing about." In other words, "The satisfaction I get from doing the will of God is greater than the satisfaction I get from eating!"
Yet many people have never experienced the satisfaction of being a blessing in someone else’s life. They feel like they’re all alone in the world. That no one loves them. That God has no use for them. That the only thing they’re doing in this world is taking up space. It’s no wonder that they feel like losing heart.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. I was reading about Dr. Karl Menninger, the world famous psychiatrist. On one occasion, he was taking questions from an audience of fellow psychiatrists. One person stood up and said, "Dr. Menninger, I have a patient who is depressed. Things aren’t going well. And I have no idea how to help. What do you recommend?"
And Dr. Menninger said, "I would tell that person to get out of the house. Find a person who needs help. And do whatever they can to help that person."
My prayer for you is that you would follow the doctor’s advice. Find someone with a need. It could be someone in your family. Someone at work. Someone at school. Or someone in a nursing home. And do what you can to meet that need. The best way to keep from losing heart is by having a heart. By sharing the love of God and the word of God with someone that God has placed in your path. Philemon 6 says "I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith so that you may gain a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ." And in Acts 10, when Cornelius invited Peter over to his house to preach the gospel, he didn’t just keep it to himself. He invited all of his relatives and close friends to come over and hear the message. And Acts 10:44 says that the Holy Spirit fell upon everyone in the house. Everyone got baptized. And the family was closer together than they had ever been before. When we stand up in faith and share God’s love with our fellow man, we experience just as much of a blessing as the people WE’RE blessing.
The best way to get a blessing is by being a blessing. Some of you know what I’m talking about it. You’ve been a part of Vacation Bible school. You’ve helped out at a funeral. You’ve visited people over at nursing home. You’ve invited people to church. You already know how satisfying it is to be used of God in someone’s life.
For those of you who don’t, you’re missing out on the number one depression killer that there is. The best way not to lose heart is by having a heart.
And if you’re here today and you are not a believer in Christ, I invite you to Him this morning. He is the only One who can keep humanity from giving up. He’s only One who can keep us from losing heart. Give your heart to Him this day. Let’s pray.
The church is called to serve people for the sake of Christ. This community can be reached for Christ, but it will demand faithful service on the part of every member of the body of Christ.