Everybody feels like giving up

What are you dealing with today that makes you just want to give up? Is it a relationship? Or a job? Maybe a dream?

If you’re in that place today, don’t think you’re alone. Everyone ends up there at some point in their lives. Even the most optimistic person in the world has a day when they just can’t take it anymore.

And there’s something God taught me yesterday as I was thinking about pushing through the tough times that I thought I’d better share. What’s even cooler is that it’s a lesson I learned from Christmas.

1149769_48728710Today’s verses are Romans 12:2-3.

We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.

As in everything else, Jesus should be the example we follow. He’s the One we should pattern our lives after, and He never gave up. Not even when he faced agony and disappointment and abandonment. Because He knew what was coming, He had the strength to keep going.

God made you with a purpose. He has a plan for you. Maybe you can’t see it right now, but it’s real. God started it, and He won’t stop finishing it until it’s done. That’s a promise. But our enemy does love to throw darts of discouragement at us, and when life is so busy and so crazy and so broken, it’s so easy to give in. It sounds so much easier just to give up.

And in those moments, it’s tempting to think that Jesus’ example doesn’t fit. Because He was God. And you’re not. I mean, after all, you’re just a regular person. You’re not a superhero. You can only take so much.  Right?

Well, let’s talk about the Christmas story, because, yes, Jesus was involved, but the major players were all 100% human. No superheroes present.

Who better to start with than Mary? A young woman. Pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Yeah, imagine life for her in the first century. You think you’ve got it rough? Mary could have been killed. The Law actually would have allowed for her to be stoned to death because no one would have believed she was a virgin and had still conceived a child. Life sucked for Mary, but if she hadn’t stuck it out, Jesus wouldn’t have been born.

What about Joseph? Mary’s husband. Before they were married, Joseph had to deal with the rumors and the whispers and the gossip that his fiancée had been unfaithful. And those whispers probably followed him for the rest of his life. Put yourself in his shoes. God asked him to be the earthly father of the Messiah, but Joseph would never get any credit. Not really. He’s the forgotten figure in your manger scene. He’s just Joseph. How awful is that?

What about the shepherds in the fields? Sure a bunch of angels popped up and told them the Savior had been born, but the angels didn’t give them a lift. The shepherd had to go searching Bethlehem, going from stable to stable until they found the one with a baby in it.

And the wise men? Gosh, I don’t think anyone really thinks about what the wise men had to go through to find Jesus. They’re always pictured in the manger scene with the shepherds, but they didn’t actually arrive until much later. And they had to do tremendous study to figure out when and where Jesus would be born. And then they had to travel for miles and miles and miles and miles…. you get the idea.

Here’s the deal, friends. Life is hard for everyone. Certainly some have it worse than others, and we shouldn’t ignore that fact. But just because you’re tempted to give up today doesn’t mean you’re the only one who’s ever felt that way. You’re not a horrible person. You’re not a bad Christian. You’re just human, and you’re stressed out and pulled in too many directions at once.

So here’s what you need to remember: Even if you feel like giving up, even if you think nothing is going to change, even if you can’t see an end to the difficult road you’re on, don’t give up.

Giving up is easy. Like the innkeeper when Mary and Joseph needed a place to stay. He didn’t even try to help them. Maybe life had just gotten in the way. Maybe he was having a tough time. But instead of trying to help a young couple in need, he just gave up and sent them away. And he could have been the one to be there when Jesus Christ was born. Think of what he missed out on because he gave up.

That thing you don’t think you can do? Ask God for help and try it anyway. That job you think is too much for you? Ask God for help and give it your best. That goal you think you’ll never achieve? Ask God for help and shoot for the stars.

Everybody feels like giving up eventually, but giving up is a choice. And with God’s help, you don’t have to choose it.

Does prophecy matter?

Prophecy is a concept that I’ve never really understood. When I was younger, I never really grasped its importance because to me, it just seemed superfluous. I didn’t really understand the significance of the phrase in Scripture that said something to the effect of, “This happened that prophecy might be fulfilled.”

What did that mean anyway?

To me, prophecy was just something someone a long time ago stated. And all you had to do to make it come true was to do the things that the prophets stated.

As a child I had always heard that Jesus had come to fulfill the prophecies made in the Old Testament. I also heard that because He fulfilled the prophecies in the Old Testament that it proved He was the Messiah. But how did fulfilling prophecies mean anything?

Well, as I have gotten older, the significance of those prophecies has begun to sink in a little. It isn’t the fact that someone said them a long time ago. It’s the substance of those prophecies that matters. Because not just anyone could have fulfilled the prophecies made in the Old Testament. These weren’t simple statements about what someone would say or how they would dress or where they would go. These were heavy, weighty proclamations that were both paradoxical and impossible, and only God Himself could have brought them to pass.

Besides that, there are hundreds of them. The Old Testament is full to overflowing with prophecies about the Messiah. Detailed information related hundreds of years before Jesus was born.

It’s fascinating to me because God still had to announce to the local Israelites that Jesus had been born and tell them where to find him. Anyone who had studied the Old Testament before the birth of Christ had all the information they needed to know how to find Him the night He was born, but personally I don’t think any of the locals were looking for him.

So it’s doubly interesting to me that the people who came looking for Christ of their own volition were foreigners.

The wise men weren’t Jewish. They were probably Persian. And there probably weren’t three of them. And the reason they knew how to find Jesus stemmed from the prophecies that Daniel wrote while he was alive in Babylon.

Think about that. Think about how complicated God’s plan is. Think about how it’s all connected.

The wise men would never have found Jesus if Daniel hadn’t written those prophecies. And Daniel would never have written those prophecies if he hadn’t been taken into captivity as a child.

But the prophecies about Jesus aren’t just in Daniel. No. They start in Genesis 3:15 and continue in every book of the Bible all the way through Malachi.

Today’s passage is Matthew 2:4-6. 4He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”

 5“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:

 6 ‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah,
      are not least among the ruling cities of Judah,
   for a ruler will come from you
      who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’”

This is Herod after the wise men have come to Jerusalem, looking for Jesus. Because the prophecies in Daniel didn’t say where Christ would be born. That prophecy is in the minor prophet book Micah (notice the prophet specifies Bethlehem in Judah because there were two Bethlehems). So since the wise men were looking for a King, they went to Jerusalem. But Christ wasn’t born as a King. He was born as a slave.

Herod was psycho. I’m just saying. He was a paranoid, wicked person, but even he knew that if he wanted information about where the Messiah would be born, he knew he had to go to the Old Testament.

Fast forward to 2011. The Christmas story has become a cute little figurine set people set up on their fire places and forget about. The wise men have become plastic lawn ornaments with fictional names. And nobody really talks about Herod and the slaughter he brought down on Bethlehem shortly after Jesus was born. And when anyone in American culture has a question about Jesus, we turn to the works and writings of historians or psychologists or sometimes even to the opinions of well-known religious leaders.

What about Scripture? I mean, if a black-hearted maniac like Herod knew to look to Scripture to find out about the Messiah, what’s our problem?

The Old Testament is full of prophecies about the Messiah. The New Testament is evidence that Jesus fulfilled all of those prophecies. He didn’t leave one unfulfilled. And no one but the Messiah could have done that.

That’s why prophecy matters. That’s why it’s important. Prophecy is a message from God explaining what is coming so we know what to look for.

So if we have questions about what’s coming — and there is something coming that will change everything — we need to look to Scripture and not to the opinion polls. The president doesn’t know. The news media doesn’t know. Congress doesn’t know. Your pastor doesn’t know. Your teachers and professors don’t know.

But God does. And what’s more, everything we need to know about what’s coming is in the Bible. We just have to read it.