The Three Words You Should Never Say (I Give Up)
Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus. This is a report from OSWM, a Watchman behind the walls of a west coast state prison. The focus of today’s devotional is perseverance.
I’ve always been fascinated with Moses and the story of the Exodus. Privately, I’ve often wondered, “Would I have given up?” Moses had many hurdles to overcome. But by faith, he persevered and led a frightened, stubborn, and rebellious people to the edge of the Promised Land. For Moses, FAITH + PERSEVERANCE = BLESSING.
I was not surprised to find a profound lack of faith in prison. What is a surprise, however, is why?
Most have been incarcerated before, most grew up in terrible home situations, many were abused, and almost all have committed criminal acts they were not charged for. In such a demographic, one would not expect to find many with a strong Christian faith.
After extensive discussions with scores of incarcerated men, I have discovered that men here are not unbelievers because they love their life of crime, were abused, or do not know the truth. The Three Words You Should Never Say They can’t grasp how God could love someone who, many times before, tried but failed and tried but failed.
At some point, Satan whispered, “Just give up. You keep trying, and you keep failing. God may be real, but He doesn’t love you. How could He? That’s why you keep failing. God is angry with you. God doesn’t love you. Just give up.”
And sadly, many have.
Most here “tried to be good” several times in their life, but without being a fully committed follower of Christ. Without the benefit of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, they cannot succeed. They believe in God, want to please God but are not in relationship with God. So inevitably, without the strength and guiding presence of the Spirit, trials and temptations overwhelm, and Satan confirms their worst fear: that they are beyond redemption, guilty and unworthy, and should just give up. Many men have.
So I pray for opportunities to encourage and inform these men who’s rage often is a mask hiding a broken heart. I look for ways to share how being in right relationship with God is not about being perfect but about being in relationship with Jesus Christ.
I share that Christians are not exempt from the trial, temptation, or tribulation, but God provides the Holy Spirit to strengthen, comfort, and help individuals persevere and overcome. I share that God through Jesus Christ forgives sins (John 1:9), has important work for believers to accomplish (Matt. 28:18-20), and does not want His people to give up (Gal. 6:2).
Back to the Moses story: In Exodus 3, God commissions Moses to undertake a great work. In Exodus 4, God provides Moses with “miraculous signs” to substantiate his calling and message to Pharaoh.
It is an auspicious beginning. But when Moses meets with Pharaoh, the king flatly rejects God’s message, “Let me people go!” In Exodus 5, Pharaoh orders harsh new burdens on the Hebrew people. The people are terribly oppressed, and it seems to be Moses’ fault. Leaders are sent to talk with Aaron and Moses saying, “May the Lord look on you and judge [you] because you have made us abhorrent in the sight of Pharaoh…and put a sword in his hand to kill us” (Ex. 5:20-21).
Moses encountered a roadblock. Despite his notable calling and supernatural provisions – despite doing and saying everything right, he appeared to fail, and his own people hated him. Many (ok, most) in that situation would be prone to think, well, I tried. Pharaoh is angry. My people are angry. Maybe I should just give up.
But Moses persevered, and because he did, Moses and his people were blessed.
Don’t give up. A roadblock is not a closed door directing you to stop or change course. Expect roadblocks. Turn intended stumbling blocks into stepping stones.
Western culture tends to associate doing the easy thing with doing the right thing. Not only is that not true, the statement profoundly contradicts what Jesus said believers should expect in the last days. Friends, the hour of the Lord’s return draws near. Times will become more difficult, not easier. Press on for God. Don’t give up.
Satan seeks to blind the world to truth. He wants believers to slow down or give up attempting great things for God. Like so many in prison, Satan wants the lost to give up trying to find God. However, Scripture notes that we are to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:14).
Things looked bleak for Moses at the end of Exodus 5. In much the same way, many sins seem unforgivable to prisoners behind the walls. But God’s power, plan, and grace are far beyond our need and measure. We must reach the lost. We must look for and initiate opportunities to share the Gospel. We must urge the broken not to give up, and we must urge fellow believers, “never grow weary in doing good.”
“Expect great things from God; attempt great thing for God.”
– Missionary William Carey
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