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Endure or quit?

Jesus Christ carrying the Holy Cross on a vintage background

Jesus endured the cross until death. Jesus was never a quitter. He is the supreme example of endurance.

Awhile back, I was thinking about my friends who embarked on their journey of faith and ministry some 35 years ago. While I am glad to note that most are continuing on this journey, a few have wandered away and have quit serving God for various reasons, although it all seemed promising initially.

The rate of attrition in full-time ministry is rising. People are giving up too easily. When faced with overwhelming challenges, quitting becomes an immediate and, in their minds, the only option.

When I questioned them on why they quit, there were a few answers that I came across. “The going is tough”; “pressures at work are mounting”; “opposition from others” (professional rivalry in Christian service?); “accumulated workload”; “disappointments and disillusionments” (I did not get what I wanted or expected); and much more.

Then I asked them: “What is next?” They replied: “I am waiting on God.” I promptly asked them: “Did you consult God before giving up?” There was no response.

Out of sudden anger and resentment, my friends made quick decisions to quit when they were in troubled waters.

Likewise, many of God’s people have made those kinds of hasty decisions to quit.

Elijah was depressed after a great victory on Mt. Carmel. He even told God: “I have had enough, Lord … Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” (1 Kings 19:4)

Jonah was very angry with God when he said: “It would be better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:8) Peter said: “I’m going out to fish.” (John 21:3)

They all went back to their comfort zones. Elijah ran to the wilderness, found himself under a juniper tree and slept. Peter went back to the sea. Jonah went out of Nineveh, made a shelter and sat under it. After the crucifixion of Jesus, Cleopas and the other disciple headed back to their own village Emmaus.

When things went wrong, they shifted their focus from God to something else. In Paul’s words, some have “suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith” (1 Tim. 1:19), others “will abandon the faith” (1 Tim. 4:1), a few “denied the faith” (1 Tim. 5:8), and many have “wandered from the faith” (1 Tim. 6:10). Paul guarded his faith like a good steward (2 Tim. 4:7).

The Hebrew-speaking Christians shifted their attention away from Jesus. The author of Hebrews exhorts them to fix their focus on Jesus alone. Jesus endured the cross until death. Jesus was never a quitter. He is the supreme example of endurance. He completed what the Master entrusted into His hands amidst all adverse circumstances.

Fixing our focus on Him will enable us to carry out our responsibilities assigned by God. Those who looked to Him were radiant. In this way, God enables His children to handle even the biggest or the smallest of their cares.

The author of Hebrews urges us to fix our eyes on Jesus. Fixing our eyes on Him will give us the right bearing and motivation to finish well.

Friends, let us not give up. Instead, let us look forward, fixing our eyes on Jesus.

“… let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith …”

Hebrews 12:1-2

The Rev R. Prabhu was elected President of Emmanuel Tamil Annual Conference (ETAC) in 2012 for the quadrennium. He is also Pastor-in-Charge of Ang Mo Kio Tamil and Seletar Tamil Methodist Churches.