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?

Wheat heads ripening in the field across from Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Waiting on Cupcake

Everyone I know is having a baby. Not literally everyone I know, but some days it feels like it is. This time it’s my good friend and writing buddy who I met in Colorado. Her mom took to calling the baby “Cupcake” so lots of others have picked up on that too. Cupcake was due on January 8. Today is January 15. We finally got the text last night that they had gone to the hospital, but since there hasn’t been news this morning, I’m going to guess that we’re still waiting. I am exhausted for her just thinking about it.

What is it about waiting that tires you out so fast? Maybe that’s just me, but if I spend a whole day waiting on something to happen, I’m more nervous and twitchy and fidgety than if I went outside and chopped down trees. I hate waiting. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ve probably picked up on that. I can’t stand it. I want to get up and go do stuff now. I don’t want to sit back and see what happens. I don’t want to sit around waiting for something exciting. I want to go do something exciting, or at least watch a movie about people who get to do exciting things.

But most of the time, waiting is necessary. It’s something everyone has to do, and if we don’t wait for what God’s doing, we’ll get ahead of Him. And getting ahead of God is never a place you want to be.

Wheat heads ripening in the field across from Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Wheat heads ripening in the field across from Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are James 5:7-8.

Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.

I love the example of farmers waiting for their harvest to ripen. It’s so true. Farmers have to have so much patience, especially out where I live. When it comes to the wheat, they plant it just before winter really hits, so the wheat has time to sprout and take root before the snow comes down. Then, the little green bits hibernate (hopefully under the snow) for the winter until the freeze when they start growing again. And then, because it’s Kansas, it freezes again when it’s not supposed to, and everyone holds their breath to see if the wheat is going to survive until harvest.

Eventually the harvest comes. But it takes a long time from planting to reaping. You have to wait. Because if you don’t wait, you’ll harvest a crop that isn’t ripe, and all the time you’ve invested up until then will have been for nothing.

Like Cupcake. I’ve been waiting for months to meet Cupcake. So have her parents. So has everyone who’s known she was coming. But if she’d come earlier than this, that meeting would have been mixed with some concern. Waiting is an important part of being pregnant because the baby has to be ready to be born.

And if you’re being honest about it, life is the same way. There are no real get-rich-quick schemes. There are no free lunches, not really. If you want to be successful, you have to work at it. The Christian life is probably more like farming than real life. You plant seeds and you wait and you wait and you wait–and you probably wait out a freeze or two–and then as long as you’re faithful, the seed will sprout. And maybe eventually it will keep growing, and if you’re very fortunate, you’ll be the one who gets to harvest it. Usually it’s someone else who gets to harvest the seeds you’ve planted though.

But no matter who does the planting and who does the harvesting, following Christ is mostly made up of waiting. There are times when He wants you to take the initiative, yes, but mostly I’ve found that you just have to wait for His next instruction. Sometimes it’s obvious. Sometimes it’s not. But He always tells us what He wants us to do, though He doesn’t always go into how. And He always makes sure that we have everything we need for what He’s called us to do, whether we realize it or not.

A big part of waiting, I think, is preparing for what God is calling us to do. I get frustrated by having to sit around waiting for God’s timetable to match up with mine, but if I look back over my life, the waiting periods I’ve experienced have been training periods. The in-between times have been the moments when God brings things along in my life to teach me what I need to know to ultimately move forward with His plan for my life.

So, if I look at the waiting periods like that, maybe I won’t despise them so much. Sometimes you have to wait, but that doesn’t mean you have to sit around doing nothing. You can keep your brain turned on, and as long as you’re focused on God, you can learn something even in the silence.

Nothing in life happens without a reason, even waiting.

Wheat at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Endure when it feels like nothing will change

For me, the hardest part of endurance is the length of time I have to wait before I see results. I’ve mentioned before that I really hate waiting. I don’t mind training and preparing and planning, but once what I have trained and planned and prepared for has happened, I want immediate results. I want to see a ROI–a return on investment, as we call it in the marketing world. But most of the time that’s not how it works.

Following Christ and living for God is less like a marketing campaign and more like wheat farming. In a marketing campaign, you do the work, you submit the materials, and you wait for your leads to come in so you can track them down and try to convince them to buy product. It’s all very rapid, and you get fast results. In wheat farming, or other types of farming, you plow your ground, you plant your seed, and then you wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. And pray that it doesn’t get hailed to bits or blown away. And pray that there’s enough rain but not too much. And you keep waiting until it’s finally time to harvest.

That’s what the Christian life is like. And that’s why we need to learn how to endure patiently because some things can’t be rushed, and if you give up too soon, you’ll miss out.

Wheat at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Wheat at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Galatians 6:9.

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.

It’s hard to do the right thing. It’s hard to press on and do good when all it seems to accomplish is to get you in trouble or to encourage others to take advantage of you, but that’s what we are called to do. As Christ-followers, we are called to live a life that honors God, and that means living according to the Bible. And maybe you didn’t know this, but the Bible isn’t exactly popular anymore. If you want to be politically correct, the Bible isn’t really the source for that.

It’s tiring to live the way the Bible says in a culture that mocks everything you believe. And it’s growing more and more difficult every day, it seems. And sometimes, in that quiet dark corner of my heart that I don’t like to admit is there, I wonder if it’s really worth it.

Have you ever been there? Where you’re just tired of being treated like a fool? Or you’re tired of always having to do the right thing and be branded as a goody-two-shoes? Or be labeled as “The Christian” when you really know the label means “self-righteous” to the people who use it?

Or are you tired of having to deal with other Christians? I think sometimes we focus on how frustrating it is to work in a culture with people who don’t believe the same way we do, but what about having to work with people who do believe the same way you do? It’s twice as frustrating because we have expectations for how Christians are supposed to behave, and when they don’t meet those expectations, it’s easy to get angry.

I get tired. I get worn out. I get exhausted with dealing with people and situations and circumstances, and there never seems to be an end to any of it. But then, I see a verse like today’s verse and I remember that many times I’m just in the growing phase of the season. People are growing. I’m growing. And if I try to harvest too quickly, I’ll kill my crop.

That’s why we have to endure. That’s why we can’t give up, whether you’re dealing with believers or unbelievers. We’re planting seeds every day, and maybe we’ll see something sprout. Maybe we won’t, but most of the time we’re going to harvest something. Maybe we won’t recognize it. Maybe we won’t even realize it, especially if we aren’t looking for it.

So don’t give up. And if you’re frustrated, try shifting your focus. Instead of seeing only how long you have to wait, try looking at how much your crop is growing while you’re waiting. We had so much moisture recently here in Kansas that the wheat outside my window has turned the most brilliant shade of green I’ve seen since last March. I got so used to the dull, dead colors of winter that seeing so much green nearly brought tears to my eyes.

And it reminded me that even in a season when it feels like nothing is growing, something is. You just have to look for it.

Wheat harvest at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Harvesting when your crop looks ready

Toward the middle of May, I posted about praying for my neighbors and their wheat harvest. When I got home from my first jaunt to Glen Eyrie over Memorial Day, as I pulled into my driveway, my closest neighbor was out harvesting. He was almost finished, so I snapped a few hurried pictures because I’d promised a German coworker that I would, since she’d never really seen a combine in action before.

So thanks to everyone who prayed. My neighbors all got their wheat in, and it seems like they did fairly well. What I hear a lot, though, is that the crops weren’t as good as some were expecting. We just didn’t have the moisture over the winter that was really needed to develop the heads. Don’t get me wrong; everyone still made off really well, and out where I live, the fact that my neighbors actually got to harvest something is a big deal. But it wasn’t as big as we were hoping.

Wheat harvest at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Wheat harvest at Safe Haven Farm – Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Galatians 6:9.

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.

I will be the first one to admit that I get tired of doing the right thing all the time. There are days when I’m so tired of waiting that I just want to do something stupid–something unplanned and spontaneous and irresponsible–and see what happens. Because, obviously, always doing the right thing hasn’t really gotten me where I want to be. Right?

But on those days, this is the verse that always comes to mind. Because no matter what our profession or our status in life, we are all farmers. From executives to housewives, from college students to elementary students, each of us is constantly planting seeds that will eventually grow into something that will be harvested. And our choices dictate what kind of a harvest that’s going to be.

If you make good choices, if you do the right thing, you’ll eventually harvest something that will be good. If you make bad choices, if you do wrong and you know you’re doing wrong, you’ll eventually harvest something that will make you unhappy. That’s not God’s doing. That’s not God punishing you. That’s you reaping the consequences of the choices you’ve made.

Where I get bogged down is when I constantly make good choices and still feel like my harvest is bad. And that’s when I have to remember that I really haven’t harvested anything yet. I’m still at the growing phase.

In the last weeks of May, everyone out here was on edge waiting to see when the wheat was going to come in. Because it looked ready. It was golden and beautiful and when the wind blew it made that beautiful whispering sound. I know some folks brought their wheat in prematurely because they were afraid of the weather. But that wheat wasn’t ready. And even though the wheat my neighbors brought in was good, would it have been better to let it wait a little longer? I’m not a wheat expert, so I don’t know. But it’s an interesting thought.

I have a lot of fields planted in my life, and I’m sure you do too. And we’re all waiting for the day when we can start harvesting and seeing a return on all the time and effort we’ve invested. But if we jump the gun, the harvest we bring in isn’t going to be the best it could be.

Check out this same verse in the Amplified Version:

And let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap, if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint.

In due time and at the appointed season. You can’t just start harvesting when you feel like it or when you think it looks ready. You have to make sure that it is ready, and that takes waiting. And waiting takes courage, especially when you feel like you can run ahead on your own and do it yourself.

So for all of us who are waiting to harvest our own fields, don’t give up. The day is coming when we’ll get to harvest. And if you’re at the point where you feel like all you’re getting out of life is negative, just remember that if you’ve planted good seeds you will get a good harvest; you just have to wait for it.

How do people produce fruit?

One of the biggest buzzwords in the church is “Fruit.” Christians talk about Fruit all the time, whether they’re talking about the Fruit of the Spirit or the Fruit of someone’s life or whatever. There’s even a verse in Scripture that basically says you can identify a true believer by the Fruit their life produces.

Okay, so if you don’t hang out in churches very much, what on earth does that mean? Obviously it’s not a literal statement because people don’t grow fruit, not like a tree does. Imagine walking around with apples hanging off your arms. . . .

Fruit can be the produce you buy in the store that was grown on a tree or a vine. Yes. But Fruit also means the results or product of someone’s efforts. Anything produced or accrued. A return or a profit.

So the Fruit of good study habits is good grades. The Fruit of careful spending is a larger bank account balance. Fruit is anything that is produced with effort.

So to a Christian, Fruit is going to be people they have led to Christ. Or disciples they have trained. Or ministries under their purview. Or people’s lives they have affected.

But here is the question this morning. How do we produce fruit?

See, fruit trees are designed to produce fruit. That’s what they were created to do, but apple trees have to produce apples. Orange trees have to produce oranges. You’re not going to get plums off an oak tree. Just like you’re not going to get pears off an elm. Only certain kinds of trees produce Fruit.

All people are designed to produce fruit but in a different way.

Fruit trees are fickle. They have to have everything just right or they don’t produce. And, granted, it depends on the type of tree. It depends on your climate. It depends on how old the trees are. There are a lot of contributing factors. And most of the time, if you just leave a fruit tree alone, it isn’t going to give the best harvest every time. Sometimes it may not provide a harvest at all. But if you work at it, if you keep the limbs pruned, and the weather obeys, and you fertilize and you do what you can to keep the birds and the pests away, you’ll get a great harvest.

So how do people produce fruit? Well, people will produce fruit if left alone. It’s what people are designed to do. But the fruit may not be any good.

We had an apricot harvest one year after it had rained too much. And even though there were plenty of apricots, none of them were edible. They had no taste, no flavor, and most of them had split wide open because of too much rain.

People on their own will produce fruit, but none of it will be of any importance. It might be a high paying job or a good career or a bonus or a nice house or a fast car. But what good are any of those things? None of them last. Most of the break. All of them will vanish when the world ends.

If you want to produce lasting fruit, you have to be plugged into the source. Trees can’t produce fruit unless they’re planted in good ground. It’s the same with people.

People aren’t designed to be fruit trees. People are designed to be the branches of a fruit tree.

Today’s verse is John 15:5.

 5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.

This is what we need to remember today, Christians. We’re not self-sufficient. And if we want our lives to mean something — if we want to produce fruit that will last into eternity — we need to be connected to Christ. And the beautiful part about being connected to Christ, is as long as you abide in Him, you can’t help but produce fruit.

That’s it. If you live and walk with Christ, your life will bear eternal fruit, and you won’t have done anything. At least, it won’t feel like you’ve done anything. It will just happen.

Now, there will be times when you will work to achieve something for Christ. And it will be hard work. And there will be challenges. And there will be days when it doesn’t feel like you’re accomplishing anything, but in the end, the harvest will be bigger and you’ll be stronger for it.

But even in a harvest where you work your hardest, fruit isn’t going to come just because you worked hard. Lasting fruit only comes through connection with Christ. You’re not going to produce it on your own, no matter how hard you work.

So don’t let your pride get in the way. Remember that real Fruit only comes through living and walking with Christ. Because apart from Christ, we can do nothing. We can scramble around, and we can do our best to make progress, but in the end, it will all be for nothing if Christ isn’t at the center.