Never Give Up—Never

Yesterday was Pentecost Sunday—an annual reminder to the Church of the importance of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. I am afraid that Presbyterian and Reformed people are sadly some of the most prone to forget the work of the Holy Spirit. We tend to be cerebral and to think that we can present the case for our positions and people will automatically gravitate to them. Thus, we forget about the necessity of the Holy Spirit to “teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:26).

Today is Memorial Day to honor all who served in the military and fought our nation’s wars and defended our freedoms. As a veteran of 24 years of service in the Army National Guard, Army Reserves, and the US Army, it is a day that is very meaningful to me.

In the providence of God, I reached Galatians 5:16-18 yesterday in my weekly sermons on Paul’s most combative epistle. Those verses speak of the spiritual warfare of all Christians in what is described as the battle of the flesh and the Spirit. They also speak about the work of the Holy Spirit. We are  to “walk by the Spirit” and be “led by the Spirit.” If I had tried to plan a sermon that would minister to both veterans and Christians fighting the good fight of faith, I could not have chosen a better passage. The Lord is always better at such things than I can ever be. 

Last week, I received one of the weekly epistles from my good friend, Geoffrey Thomas. This one was on never giving up and I thought it was so appropriate that I have decided to include a portion of it in this article. A friend of mine often has told me this: “if you think you can or you think you can’t, you are probably right.” It has often struck me that many people fail in what they are doing before they ever start the task because of their attitude. They have an attitude that they cannot succeed so they are essentially doomed from the start. My eighth grade social studies teacher used to tell me that I was not a good candidate for college and that I should think about doing something else with my life. I have never figured out why she would have told me that, but I am glad that I did not listen to her. She is not the only person in my life who has ever told me that I would not be able to do something I wanted to do. There are times when we have to close our ears to what others say and take comfort in Psalm 119:99—“I have more insight than all my teachers.” John Bunyan, in Pilgrim’s Progress, wrote about  Giant Despair who lived in Doubting Castle loved to destroy the lives of pilgrims by telling them what they could not do. Christian languished in that castle for many days while being threatened daily with what Giant Despair was going to do to him until he remembered that he had a key in his clothing that would open every door in that castle. That is the key of faith. Now, I quote from Geoffrey Thomas:     

In the Westminster Fraternal last week, 25 of us heard Paul Williams of Swindon speaking on “Overcoming Discouragement in the Ministry.” It was humbly presented and well received with plenty of contributions in the afternoon’s discussion session. Paul’s namesake said in his letter to the Galatians, “And let us not grow weary of going good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (6:9). I was asked publicly have I been discouraged in my ministry. I have certainly often been angry with myself for poor sermons and poor pastoral care. Tons of times. But I can say with Bunyan, “No discouragement has made me once relent my first avowed intent to be a preacher pilgrim.” The challenge is never giving up. Never. Plod on, plod on . . . with hope in your heart. We do not walk alone if Jesus Christ is our Lord and Saviour.

A man named Hari aged 43 from Canterbury is a double amputee after a bomb in Afghanistan blew off his legs from above his knees. Last week he climbed Everest. It was 70 years after Edmund Hilary was the first to climb the world’s highest mountain. Hari said, “It was tough, harder than I could have ever imagined. We just had to carry on and push for the top no matter how much it hurt or how long it took.” Jonathan Edwards said, “The way to heaven is ascending; we must be content to travel uphill though it be hard and tiresome and contrary to the natural bias of our flesh.”

I could give many examples of not giving up from my own ministry. One that comes to mind is the ministry I and others had in Russia for many years. There was a time when I tried to work with some fellow ministers in my former denomination to establish a ministry there. Their ministry often consisted of taking irregular trips there to talk about what they could do in Russia if they actually decided to do something. It never got beyond the talking stage with those people. Seriously. I grew impatient with such trips and told them I was going to separate from them. They told me that I did not have the gifts to get anything started there; that I need to submit to them and learn from them; and, they even questioned whether I understood the gospel. I left anyway and started having Russian pastors’ conferences. They grew and grew and grew. First, there were about 25 people. Then 35. Then 60. Then 80. Then 100. Then 125. Then 140. Then 150. One missionary to Russia, married to a Russian lady, came to me at one conference and said, “Can I speak to you outside?” So, we went outside. Then. He said, “How did you do this?” I asked him what he meant. He said, “You have people at this conference calling each other brothers who formerly would not even speak to one another. Hod did you do this?” I replied, “Well, I didn’t do it. The Holy Spirit did.” I am glad I did not listen to those people who told me that I could not do anything in Russia. People keep telling me what I cannot do and I keep refusing to listen to them. Some people probably take my actions as stubbornness. I like to think it is just determination to do something for Jesus. 

Bunyan describes heaven as a celestial city which must be ascended from all sides. Jerusalem is like that. The path from the Jordan River to Jerusalem, the main route that Galileans took to go to the annual feasts, was up a steep hill for many miles. There is nothing worth doing that will be easy. It will take great effort. There will be failures. If it was easy, everyone would do it. The Lord blessed me with being promoted to Colonel before I retired from the army. I was passed over twice (Army people like to say ‘non-selected’ but it felt like being rejected). I decided to do everything in my power to get promoted. I took Air War College and spent a solid year studying 4-5 hours each evening—every evening, except Sunday. I passed Air War College and was selected by the next promotion board. I knew many chaplains who were passed over for Colonel who got mad and retired from the Army. Herein is the lesson: if you want to be a success, do the things that other people are unwilling to do in order to achieve that success. And never, ever, ever give up. Do not give up on your churches. Do not give up on evangelism. Do not give up on people. “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary” (Galatians 6:9). 

Dewey Roberts, Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Destin, FL

Please mail any donations to: Vanguard Presbytery, PO Box 1862, Destin, FL 32540 

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