A husband and his wife advertised for a live-in maid to cook and do the housework. They hired a young girl, who worked out fine, was a good cook, polite, and kept the house neat. One day, after about six months, she came in and said she would have to quit. "But why?" asked the disappointed wife. She hemmed and hawed and said she didn't want to say, but the wife was
persistent, so finally she said, "Well, I met this guy and I'm pregnant." The wife said, "Look, we don't want to lose you. My husband and I don't have children, and we'll adopt your baby if you will stay." She talked to her husband; he agreed, and the maid said she would stay. The baby came, they adopted it, and all went well. After several months though, the maid came in again and said that she would have to quit. The wife questioned her, found out that she was pregnant again, talked to her husband, and offered to adopt the baby if she would stay. She agreed, had the baby, they adopted it, and life went on as usual. In a few months, however, she again said she would have to leave. Same thing. She was pregnant. They made the same offer, she agreed, and they adopted the third baby. She worked for a week or two, but then said, "I am definitely leaving this time." "Don't tell me you're pregnant again?" asked the lady of the house.
"No," she said, "there are just too many kids here to pick up after."
All of us are tempted to quit--especially pastors, church planters and those working in ministry. Some statistics estimate that up to 1500 pastors quit each month. (Source: A Sunscape Ministries of Colorado, which serves clergy in crises, report from all denominations nationwide) And some of us feel like quitting 1500 time per month.
The temptations to quit are strong and they are out there, but how do we keep going? How do we keep from giving up and giving in?
“Here is something pretty unbelievable. The only living World War I veteran, a man named Frank Buckles just turned 109 years old. What’s even more amazing, he just finished his fourth tour in Afghanistan.”--Jay Leno
How do we keep going? There’s one overlooked key to perseverance that we see in the great perseverance chapter, 2 Corinthians 4.
“Therefore, since God in his mercy has given us this new way, we never give up… We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies... We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. .. That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”--2 Corinthians 4 (NLT)
We can sum up this chapter this way: “We never give up…we never give up.”--2 Corinthians 4:1 & 4:16 (NLT)
Why not? What keeps us going?
Paul talks about the pressure.
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed…”--2 Corinthians 4:8 (NIV)
As planters and pastors we face all kinds of pressure: financial pressure, emotional pressure, financial pressure, family pressure, did I mention financial pressure?
We are pressed, but not crushed.
Paul talks about the perplexities.
“We are perplexed, but not driven to despair…”--2 Corinthians 4:8 (NLT)
We are perplexed. Sometime I just can’t figure it out. When the newly hired Executive Pastor at our church had to move to Oregon recently because his wife lost her job due to this economy, everyone on staff asked the same question, “Why is this happening?”
A lot of us face perplexing situations right now. But I like how the message translates this verse:
“We're not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do…”--2 Corinthians 4:8 (The Message)
Paul talks about the persecutions.
“We are …persecuted, but not abandoned…”--2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NIV)
My daughter is home from China, where she serves ministering to students. We hear first hand of persecutions going on there.
I received this text from one of our planters yesterday, yes, yesterday--he is on the edge:
“Thanx. Here's latest on the other events of the day :)
I believe we just missed an attack by Gods grace. …Was guy among us loaded w/357 watching. Make a long story short …helicopter began flying overhead "looking" for us. At that point guys
decided to go… On road out of town just sped past 4 … trucks all loaded with gunmen headed toward village where we were. Headed back …. Gunmen on road now too. Big traffic parade we got past, those behind us won't :) tell more details when get back. Keep praying.”
Notice the happy face signs. He’s facing persecution, but pretty excited about the opportunity.
And we all have the opportunity of persecution. Maybe not with a 357 aimed at us, but as leaders our necks are on the line. We are taking shots.
Paul talks about the problems.
“We are … struck down, but not destroyed.”--2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NIV)
The Amplified Bible says, “we are struck down to the ground, but never struck out and destroyed.”
We get knocked down,
A few years ago, it looked like Super Bowl history would be made: perhaps two undefeated teams would make it. The New Orleans saints started the season 13-0 before they lost to the Dallas Cowboys. The Indianapolis Colts started 14-0. They had a lead at halftime in game fifteen--their second-to-last-regular season game. But they pulled out their starters and lost.
The Colts took a lot of flak in the aftermath of that loss. A perfect season was in their grasp, but they passed on it. In the midst of the outcry about the loss, their team president Bill Polan had this to say, “Our goal is not an undefeated season. Our goal is to get to the Super Bowl and win.”
A lot of time we quit when we get knocked down. But Paul says our goal is not an undefeated life. Our goal is to keep going, to be standing at the end, to follow God no matter what.
“It is not enough for a man to know how to ride; he must know how to fall.”--Mexican Proverb
We face pressure, perplexities, persecutions and problems, so how do we persevere?
Obviously there are several paths to perseverance: perspective, prayer… (Check out Bill Hoyt’s article on this passage in last month’s seedlings for some antidotes to discouragement: (http://www.growinghealthychurches.org/art/art_652.shtml)
…but I want to suggest one primary key:
The Key is We
In this chapter Paul uses the term “we” 29 times and the term “us” five times.
The key to keep going is to not go alone.
Perseverance means teaming up with someone else.
That’s why we have a network! When I’m facing financial pressure, I think about our planter partners in Michigan and realize that if they can make it, so can I. When I am perplexed I reflect on my colleagues who are “undergoing the same kind of sufferings” and I keep going. When I think of persecutions, I realize there are a lot worse persecutions going on with my brothers and my daughter. And when I get knocked down, I recognize that the none of my colleagues is undefeated either.
We can keep going together. The key is “we.”
“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble .”-- Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NLT)
Here’s the application: Go to a Connection Event--get with the other folks who are going through the same things. Talk to your coach. Serve as a coach. Connect with other planters, leaders and pastors on the phone or through email, texting, Facebook, Twitter, Walkie-Talkie, carrier pigeon…or whatever. Do not neglect meeting together--make it a habit. Encourage one another, and all the more.
We may want to quit at times, but we can keep going, together. The key is “we.”