Time to Quit?

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7)

This verse gives the big picture in life. This is the one thing I will never quit. Following Jesus to the very end.

But given that I’ll never quit the main event, how do I discern which things I should quit, and when?

I don’t quit easily, but sometimes it’s OK to quit.

Here’s an example. I have served as a running Race Director for almost 25 years.

The job includes organizing and recruiting volunteers, permitting and fees with the town, coordinating snack delivery, putting all the markers on the course, and deciding whether to proceed or cancel if thunderstorms in the area that night. And using the bullhorn to announce the start of the race and the awards after.

There’s a wonderful sense of accomplishment when all the missing pieces come together, and the racers enjoy a good race. Indeed, I used to think thought I would be a race director until they pried the announcer’s bullhorn out of my cold, dead hands.

But due to the interaction of my afib and meds, I have lost the drive that propelled me as race director for so many years, and I won’t be able to continue as race director.

But that doesn’t make me a quitter in life. Because I won’t stop loving God.

When former pleasures are stripped away, I want to remain in God’s love. I want to still sing heartfelt praises. He is the invisible God who really did become personal in Jesus, who walked on this earth in the Middle East.

And Jesus said that his greatest commandment was “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” And the second greatest was “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (See Matthew 22:37-40)

Such a simple motto: Love God and love people. Of course, it takes a lot of wisdom to figure out exactly how to live this out each day, but it’s the one thing I don’t want to quit doing.

God Loves and Sustains Us … In Surprising Ways

Even to your old age and gray hairs
    I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
    I will sustain you and I will rescue you.
(Isaiah 47:4)

This verse is one of the most beautiful statements in the Bible about God’s care. It has extra meaning now that I have so much gray hair, but it applies to you too even if you don’t have a single gray hair yet.

But there is one danger in dwelling on a verse like this. We may drift into thinking that we’ll have no difficulties…. or at least that if there are any, they will be quickly resolved in the way that we want! We start to think we know exactly how God should act to fix it for us.

Not so fast! Compare our opinion of how we think God should serve us to what God says about his character.

I say, ‘My purpose will stand,
    and I will do all that I please.’
(Isaiah 46:10)

You mean God is not going to take care of my immediate needs?? You mean God might contradict what I know I need and want in my life.

Yes.

I like Tim Keller’s view that when we pray and don’t get the answer we want, God always answers our prayers in precisely the way we would want them to be answered if we knew everything he knew.

I do agree that God always gives us what we would ask for if we understood the whole story.

Personal example: I planned to excel in my age group as a runner as I grew older. I believed God would provide, and if anyone asked how come I was so fast for my age I would give credit to God.

But then, I got a heart rhythm issue a few years ago: persistent afib. My great senior running career plans ended. Now I can only jog, yet somehow it is part of God’s plan. I now tell people that being able to even jog at my age is truly a blessing!

Yes, God is definitely caring for me and sustaining me… just not in the exact ways I initially thought he would.

Gracious in Defeat

Pete Alonso was shooting for a three-peat, hoping to win the Home Run Derby at Dodger Stadium, the site of the MLB All-Star game.

He reached the semifinals, but the semifinal winner was a young rookie phenom on the Seattle Mariners named Julio Rodriguez.  In his post-Derby interview, Alonso expressed what a thrill it was to compete again and complimented the effort of the victor.

“Sometimes it’s just not good enough. I thought I put up a great performance, but J-Rod was just better tonight. He did an excellent job and sometimes you just gotta tip your hat.”

 He said he’d look forward to the chance to do it again next year.

“If I’m healthy and I’m willing and able, then absolutely,” Alonso said. “I love this event; I think it’s an absolute blast.”

Wouldn’t it be great if a politician who lost could be so complimentary towards the guy that beat him? And have a wonderful anticipatory attitude towards their possibly having a rematch?

 I’d be much more likely to vote for a politician who expressed such a gracious attitude!

No Condemnation

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, (Romans 8:1)

What a strong declaration! Before we were in Christ, we lived under a sentence of condemnation. If the evidence were presented in court the verdict would be: guilty.

But thanks to the atoning work of Christ that sentence is vacated. Unequivocally and totally. Can’t be undone!

But here’s a problem: what happens if you do feel condemned anyway?

We have an enemy who often attacks us with an overall generalized unlimited sense of condemnation, wanting us to feel like a piece of filth. These allegations come fast and furious in an overwhelming crescendo. The tone is harsh, accusatory, unloving and unkind. Not too long ago I endured a day filled with such a blistering attack.

The nasty voice tells you: Think of when you did ___________ and ________ and ________. It goes on and on. These blanks are tailored to whatever it is you feel the guiltiest about. Then the accusing enemy says: “How dare you think you are forgiven for those ???How can you even call yourself a Christian?? You disgusting creep.”

Thankfully, I had help recovering from the vicious onslaught and regaining a restful heart.

Consider 1 John 3:19-21: This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence:  If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God

First, I saw how “If our hearts condemn us” does not contradict “no condemnation.” Here’s why:
The condemnation we are freed from in Romans 8:1 is the eternal the doom of hell. We have been set free from that and given eternal life.

But even as Christians, there are ways we still can offend God. We are then temporarily guilty. So, our hearts condemn us means there is a specific offense to which God is drawing attention. This is quite different from the bogus shotgun blast that comes from our enemy…of us being a worthless unforgivable piece of garbage.

There is a much better truthful exchange that God offers. An example:
God: You are harboring a real bitter & nasty & unforgiving attitude towards ___________.
Me: Yes, I am. I repent. Forgive me.
God: Christ already paid the penalty for that. You are forgiven.

Being led to this genuine repentance leads to something sweet. After I repent, my heart stops condemning me and my rest and confidence before God are restored. What a freedom repentance brings! With my heart again at rest, I return to the joy of living in freedom and forgiveness. There is no condemnation!