Summary: Jeremiah is an example of resilience in his refusal to give up when things get difficult.
Title: How to Keep Going When You Feel Like Giving Up
Text: Jeremiah 1:4-8, 20:7-18 and 32
Thesis: Jeremiah is an example of resilience in his refusal to give up when things get difficult.
The Bible in 90 Days Whole Church Challenge
We have just completed Week 8 of our Bible in 90 Days Whole Church Challenge reading. Early on in our reading we became aware of the cyclical nature of Israel’s relationship with God: They enjoyed God’s blessing for a time then fell into sin which resulted in God’s allowing them to suffer the consequences of their sin, which usually meant a time of oppression by their pagan neighbors. After having suffered sufficiently, they would come to their senses, repent of their sin and ask God to intercede for them and save them from their oppressors. God would then deliver them and restore them to a time of prosperity and blessing.
The Book of Jeremiah is the story of how Israel has persisted in rebelling against the will of God and God sending a prophet, Jeremiah, to confront them and foretell their destruction at the hands of the Babylonians and an impending period of exile. In the story we see something of the challenges Jeremiah faced as an unpopular bearer of bad news and his struggle to persevere despite the cost to him personally.
I want to offer a disclaimer before I begin today. There are times in life when, after having given something our best shot, we have to give up or surrender to the inevitable. I have just finished reading Exiles by Ron Hansen in which he recreates the story of five nuns who were traveling to the United States from Germany on the German ship The Deutschland. In 1875, on its maiden voyage, The Deutschland was caught in a blizzard and ran aground soon after it was underway. The five nuns all perished in the ship wreck. Hansen’s book not only tells their story but also the parallel story of Jesuit poet priest, Gerald Manley Hopkins’ writing of his famous, 35 stanza poem memorializing the disaster.
At some point all the striving in the world could not save The Deutschland. At some point all who survived had to leave the sinking ship.
So my thoughts today are not about knowing when to bail out of a plane about to crash or when to get in the lifeboat when a ship is sinking. It is about being resilient in persevering through the challenges of life.
It is about having grit. It is about digging in and giving it your best shot. It is about playing until the whistle blows. It is about playing hard to win. And if a win is not forthcoming, playing hard enough to tie the game and go into overtime or extra-innings.
Tony Grossi wrote a story in the Plain Dealer Reporter on November 4, 2001 titled”A Stunner and a Bummer.” It was the story of a game between the Cleveland Browns and the Chicago Bears. With only 28 seconds remaining in the game the Browns led 21 – 7. The Browns were all but packed up and ready to go home when the Bears scored making the game 21 – 14. The Bears then recovered their onside kick and threw a Hail Mary pass that resulted in another touchdown tying the game at 21-21. The game went into overtime and 2 minutes and 43 seconds later the Bears intercepted a Browns pass and ran for a touchdown… the Bears win 28-21. The Bears basically scored two touchdowns in 28 seconds and then a third in overtime to move a 21 –7 deficit to a 28 – 21 win.
I know it was just another football game but games like that are metaphors for life. It might have looked and felt hopeless being behind 21 – 7 with only 28 seconds remaining in regular play… but it was not hopeless.
In the game of life, when life looks and feels hopeless, what do you do?
What do you do when you feel like giving up? The first thing you do is:
I. Revisit Your Calling
The word of the Lord came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. Do not be afraid for I am with you and will rescue you.” Jeremiah 1:4-8
In this passage there are three key elements that are helpful to us in if we are to persevere through challenging times.
A. The first truth is that God knew us before we were born.
God assured Jeremiah at the very onset that his arrival on the human scene did not surprise God.
Raccoons usually mate between December and June and after a gestation period of 63 days most litters are born in April or May. Raccoons usually have a litter of 3 to 5 young who hang around the nest for about twelve weeks. After twelve weeks the young follow their mother on her daily or nightly foraging for food runs. One evening Bonnie called for me to come and see something. When I got there she pointed to a mother raccoon with three baby raccoons in tow, making their way along behind our garage.