The Cost of Giving Up

Giving up is easy. Just throw your hands up, walk away from what’s challenging you or frustrating you, and stop thinking about it. It doesn’t take effort or inner strength to give up. It just takes a choice.

I’ve been there before. Actually, I think I was there this morning. Faced with all this overwhelming stress, this crushing workload, and the exhausting struggle of planning for the future, I considered just walking away from all of it. I was ready this morning. Because what does giving up actually cost?

If I didn’t have to work so hard to make a living, maybe I could rest. If I didn’t have to take care of family members and friends so often, maybe I could actually take care of myself for a change. If I didn’t have to plan for the future outcome of two businesses, maybe I could make one of them work. Sounds to me like giving up would be a greater benefit to me than pressing onward has been.

But is that the truth?

The truth is no matter how little I work, I don’t rest. I don’t know how, and that’s a soul issue. The same is true in taking care of myself, and spending more time to myself won’t help my heart any. And maybe my focus is pulled in two directions with two businesses, but I’m not ultimately responsible for the success of either. And maybe it seems like giving up won’t cost me anything, but that’s an illusion. Because giving up on any of those fronts would cost me the blessings I haven’t received yet.

Work will be rewarded (2 Chronicles 15:7). That’s a promise God makes us. When we work for Him, He promises to reward us for what we’ve done. But the truth about rewards from God is that they don’t always follow the work immediately. Sometimes you have to wait for a while.

Think of it like a harvest. It’s wintertime now, and across Kansas all the wheat fields are dormant. They were all planted before the first freeze, and most fields are already sprouted. Some are green, although right now most are yellowish and brown because we’re having such a dry year. But the farmer who planted the field doesn’t know how the field is going to grow.

He planted the field before winter, and he’s trusting that the field will bring a great harvest in summer. But there’s six months between planting and harvesting.

The same is true with any great objective in our lives. First you plant the seed. Then, you wait for it to grow. Then, you keep waiting. Sometimes you have to tend it, water it, feed it. But mostly you have to leave it alone and just keep living your life. Eventually, the time will come when you can harvest, when the seed has grown into a strong, beautiful plant. But it never happens overnight.

Think about it.

When you try to get in shape, you have to exercise. You don’t develop strong muscles overnight. You have to keep at it. You have to keep walking, keep lifting weights, keep doing your best and working hard to be able to claim the benefits of exercise.

When you start a business, you can’t just let it sit. You have to work it. You have to build contacts, reach out to potential customers, create products, manage campaigns, and talk to people you don’t know. Your business won’t sell a million products overnight (unless you’re just super blessed … and if you are, can you give me a lesson?).

What would have happened if J.K. Rowling gave up after her tenth publisher’s rejection? What would have happened if Edison gave up on inventing the light bulb or if the Wright brothers decided that they should stick to making bicycles?

Giving up before they succeeded wouldn’t have cost them anything they currently had. It would have cost them what they were going to achieve. And it’s the same with the rest of us.

If you give up now, you’re forfeiting something great. No, you don’t have it now, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never get it. You’ll get that reward when the time is right (Galatians 6:9) and not a moment sooner.

Here on Earth, we get focused on time. We live and die by the clock. But when we come face to face with God’s schedule, we need to readjust our perspective. Time has no meaning to Him. He made time. He is beyond time, and so He’s not subject to it. God sees time very differently than we do (2 Peter 3:8-9). And just because He isn’t running according to our watches, doesn’t mean He’s late.

God is always on time. We’re the ones with the watches that run too fast or too slow.

Think about your deadlines that way. So many times I feel the urge to give up because I’m not going to achieve something by the time I set. But who cares about the time I set? My timetable isn’t the one that matters. So how can I even consider giving up when I don’t even have access to the timetable God’s running on?

Yes, giving up is easy. But it costs more than we’ll ever know. So just hold on. I know it’s hard. I know it’s frustrating. I know it’s taking everything you have to just crawl out of bed in the morning. (I know because I’m there too.) But the reward is bigger and better than we can imagine.

Keep walking. Keep writing. Keep believing. Keep building. Keep moving forward. Keep on keeping on. Don’t give up. The ones who came before us endured more than we have, and they’ve received their rewards in full, just like God promised (Hebrews 12:1-3).

Who’s to say we won’t be next?

A masterpiece can’t make itself

I’ve just been handed an intense copywriting project that requires me to dig into the recesses of my mind for plumbing engineering specs I haven’t thought about in two years. It’s going to take a whole day of fierce concentration to get everything done. I get started, and before long, I’m deeply submerged in the realm of copper tubing, sealing elements, and recirculation systems.

And my phone rings. Or somebody knocks on my office door. Or somebody needs to ask me a question in general.

Snap. Just like that. My train of thought derails. I lose the sentences I’m crafting. And the beautiful, concise paragraph I’d been forming in my brain disintegrates, never to be seen again.

Yes, I’m exaggerating (but only slightly).

I hate being interrupted, and I don’t always handle it with grace. I’m better about it than I used to be (experience is a hard teacher), but I still struggle.

When I’m working, I get so deep into the zone of my thoughts that when someone jerks me out of those thoughts, I feel disoriented and confused. It takes me a few moments to realign myself so I can even communicate. Then, once I’ve answered the question or provided the solution, I have to find a way to jump back into the project. Sometimes I can. Sometimes I can’t. Either way, I probably won’t find my way back to exactly where I was before.

And that’s okay. Part of adulting is learning how to pick up the pieces of your shattered concentration and keep moving forward. But when you have to change directions halfway through a project, often, your project won’t turn out like you originally intended.

Have you ever considered how God feels when we interrupt Him?

In Ephesians 2:10, God calls us His workmanship. That word means masterpiece. My life, and your life, are all part of God’s brilliant, beautiful, perfect plan. He’s designed a life and a future just for you and just for me, based on who we really are and what He created us to do.

We’re God’s masterpieces. We’re His works of art. But it will take our lifetimes on Earth to get us to the place where we’re complete. Want to know why? I can’t speak for everyone, but I can certainly speak for myself.

I get in God’s way.

I interrupt His plans with my own actions and half-brained attempts at controlling my own life. And while He can take the broken threads of my life and weave a beautiful piece of art from them, how much more beautiful would it have been if I hadn’t interfered in the first place?

Yes, God is Almighty, and there’s nothing I can do to screw up my life to the point where He can’t redeem it. But what if I hadn’t stuck my fingers into the frosting to begin with?

ephesians-2-10I often think of God as a sculptor, and I see myself as a shapeless block of marble, unyielding, stubborn, and not worth much at face value. And God, in His infinite patience and wisdom and artistry, chip-chip-chips away at my rough spots with His chisel and hammer. He looks at the ugly corners of my life and sees something majestic and beautiful, and He has the power to make something amazing from it.

But it isn’t always a fun process. Sometimes it hurts.

When I interrupt Him and try to fix myself, I only end up making more rough spots that He’ll ultimately have to chisel away. When I try to take control of my own life, I make more work for Him.

I go down roads I shouldn’t. I listen to people who are wrong. I look to idols to tell me what I should look like or how I should act. And instead of submitting to the design that He has for my life, I start trying to chisel myself into a shape that He’ll accept. But have you ever seen marble try to chisel itself? Even if it could, it wouldn’t turn out pretty.

A masterpiece can’t make itself.

God sees me. He’s the only one who really can see me. He knows my flaws and my failures. He knows my rough spots. But He can look beyond all those blemishes and see my true value. Since He’s the only one who can see it, He’s the only one who can bring it out. He knows what needs to be cut out of my life in order to let the best of me shine through.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10

God is more gracious about being interrupted than I am, and I can take a lesson from that. I can learn to be kinder when I react to interruptions. I can learn to be persistent and keep trying even when my thoughts and plans are derailed. And maybe I will learn to not interrupt God with my own feeble attempts at control.

He’s the artist. I’m the masterpiece. And I can’t wait to see what He’s creating.

A pebble in your shoe should never ruin your day

Today’s verse is 1 Peter 1:3.

 3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation,

What does it mean to live with great expectation? Well, the first thing I thought of was Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, which I must admit I have only read portions of. If I’m correct, I believe it centers around a mistreated child’s expectations of wealth, but it’s Dickens so it will be a morality tale as well.

I think everyone lives with a certain level of expectation. If we live in the U.S., we expect to be free to speak our minds and believe what we want. If we are children, we expect that our parents will provide for us. If we are adults, we expect our taxes to go up every year.

But what does it mean to live with great expecation? The Amplified Version says the same verse this way:

3Praised (honored, blessed) be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah)! By His boundless mercy we have been born again to an ever-living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

Ever-living hope. To live with great expectation means to live with a hope that never dies. As Christians, though, can we honestly say we live like that? Do we face each day with confidence and certainty, knowing deep down inside that Christ has saved us? Do we let that fact seep into our thoughts and our actions every moment? If we did, none of us would ever have a bad day.

Yes, there are difficult people in our lives. And there are challenges to deal with. And obstacles to overcome. And stress. Loads and loads of stress. But what are those but bumps in the road? What are they but little pebbles in our shoes? If you’re walking in a park and you get a pebble in your shoe, does it ruin your whole day? No. That would be silly. When you get a pebble in your shoe, you walk to a place where you can lean, take your shoe off, dump it out, put it on and keep walking.

We can’t live with great expectation if all we focus on are our failures or the difficult circumstances we find ourselves in. If focus on the difficulties, they will become insurmountable. But if we look at them as just a passing annoyance, something that’s there to bother us until we learn a lesson from it, then they won’t seem so intimidating.

Now, am I saying to take your difficulties lightly? No. We all have trouble in our lives, but all have it for a reason. Trouble is never random. For every cause there is an effect. Some effects may stem from the cause that the world is broken. People have trouble they don’t deserve. That is true. But oftentimes the case is that we bring trouble on ourselves. And we shouldn’t step back and take that with a grain of salt. We need to realize where it comes from and take the appropriate steps to correct the problem . . . otherwise it will come back . . . or it will never leave in the first place.

God lets us go through difficult things to help us learn. Because we learn from trouble. We get stronger if we’re weak. Or we get weaker if we’re too strong. But in either case, our faith grows because God doesn’t ever let us down, no matter what we’re going through.

1 Peter 1:3 is the beginning of a sentence, and it doesn’t finish the thought. You’ll notice the comma at the end of the verse. So I was wondering what the rest of the verse said. I thought I’d look at it in the Message. Even though the Message is a paraphrase, it gives a really good idea of the whole concept of the passage.

1 Peter 1:3-5

What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole.

Live with great expectation. That’s what believers are called to do. Walk through every day with hope, understanding that trouble we have are there to teach us and when we learn the lessons we need to learn, they’ll fade away.

We have an ever-living hope in Christ and a future in heaven and God is watching over us. If we keep that in mind and truly live by it, I’m not sure we’ll ever have a bad day. Oh, there will be difficult days and hard days, but if our perspective is in the right place, they’ll just be a pebble in your shoe. Annoying but pretty easy to leave behind.

Great Scott!

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to know the future? I think that’s one of the reastons why science fiction is such a popular style of writing. There’s something in us that wants to see and know what is beyond tomorrow. But it’s also interesting to me that every story that deals with time travel usually comes back to the concept that knowing the future is a bad idea.

The most notable example is probably the Back to the Future series. All Doc Brown wanted to do was build a time machine that would usher in an era of peace, but simple meddling in the future (a couple of them) turned his and Marty McFly’s lives on their heads.

We don’t know the future. We honestly can’t know our own future. It’s something interesting to think about but even in the secular world there seems to be a consensus that knowing the future (let alone trying to change it) is a bad idea.

But, there’s an exception.

God knows the future. He knows the future because He created it. Heck, He created Time itself, so Time has no meaning to Him.

We weak, puny human types can’t wrap our heads around that. We are bound by the laws of Time because we were created within Time. But God can do whatever He wants with Time. He can look forward. He can look backward. He can step back and see how all the pieces of our fractured broken lives fit together in the beautiful masterpiece He’s painting.

Be honest. Take yourself ten years ago. Would you have wanted to know that you’d be where you are today? Would you want to know what you’d have to go through, the people you would hurt, the people who would hurt you, the challenges yoou would have to overcome, to get where you are today? Would you want to know the responsibilities you would have today?

I wouldn’t have. It would have scared me to death.

But God knew. And He started ten years ago getting me ready to tackle the job He had for me now. I didn’t understand it ten years ago. And I didn’t know that was what He was doing. But that was His plan.

I mean, think about that. God had our lives planned out from the beginning of time. He knew us before time even started.

2 Timothy 1:9 says,

9 For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.

 I know there are a lot of questions about why God does the things He does. I’ve heard people wonder why God would create the universe when we–His creation–were just going to wreck it. I’ve heard people wonder why God would create Satan when He knew Satan would convince Adam and Eve to sin.

Sometimes there aren’t answers.

But one thing I do understand is that God created everything because He wanted to have a relationship with us. He wanted to have a one-on-one relationship with you and with me where we could talk to each other every day. That’s why He created us. That’s why people are the crowing achievement of God’s creation because He designed us to be able to relate to Him.

He loved us so much that even before He made time itself, He knew He would have to save us and He decided we were worth it.

Do I understand it?

No. I don’t have the ability to comprehend love like that. But I’m thankful for it.

All I know for sure is that God loves me and that He’s working the future out for my good. And even if that’s all you know too, you’re good to go. What else do you really need to know? Knowing the details of the future can be bad for your health, so it’s better to just leave it up to God. He’s seen the future already, and He knows what’s coming . . . without needing to generate 1.21 gigawatts.