On a drizzly Saturday afternoon three years ago (early 2015), seven people gathered around a high-top table at Busboys and Poets, a restaurant in Washington D.C. They were united by a single cause: to chuck it all. It was the inaugural meeting of The Quitter Club. Tagline: “Let’s give up on our dreams… together!”
The founder of the club, Justin Cannon, had quit all sorts of things – filmmaking, music, graphic design, college, fashion. He’d pursue a dream, self-doubt would kick in, and then he’d quit, always feeling like a failure. At a filmmakers’ gathering in February 2015, Cannon expressed his growing exasperation. “I was like, ‘We should have a group where people want to give up on their dreams.’ I was making a joke,” he recalls. “But somebody said, ‘You know, that’s a really good idea.’”
A few days later, he took action. He signed up for a Meetup organizer account online and posted the notice for his new group. He thought he might be forming a club of one, but within 48 hours, 35 people signed up. Out of those 35, seven showed up at the first meeting.
One was ready to cast aside her long-held ambition to become an actress. Same deal for a would-be writer. Another was ready to quit Washington D.C. altogether.
The hodgepodge group of strangers were drawn together by the same invite that read: “Most of us have something special we’d like to do with our lives. Often this Holy Grail does us more harm than good; costing valuable time, resources and relationships … At the Quitters’ Club… we can help each other stomp out the brush fires set in our hearts and get on with our lives.”
Strange thing was as they gathered to talk about quitting, they ended up encouraging each other to keep on going. (Ellen McCarthy, “The Quitters Club: Let's Give Up on Our Dreams Together,” The Washington Post, 3-25-15; www.PreachingToday.com)
Does anyone here feel like joining the Quitters Club? It’s easy to do especially when life gets hard, but I wouldn’t recommend it, because quitting can make life even harder.
If you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Hebrews 10, Hebrews 10, where the Holy Spirit addresses a group of people getting ready to give up on following Christ, giving them reasons not to quit.
Hebrews 10:26-27 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. (ESV)
Don’t give up your hope in Christ, because He is your only hope of avoiding God’s judgment. Besides Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, there is no other sacrifice for deliberate sin. The Old Testament sacrifices covered only unintentional sins, those sins committed by accident or in ignorance (Numbers 15:22-29). Those who sinned intentionally, or deliberately, were “cut off”, or put to death, usually by stoning (Numbers 15:29-36).
Hebrews 10:28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. (ESV)
Deliberate disobedience was a capital offense under the Old Testament Law, which no sacrifice would cover. So, if you give up your faith in Christ, there is no way to take care of your sin, not in the Jewish religion or any other religion.
Ravi Zacharias, in his book Faith Among Secular Gods, shares the story about a conversation he had with a young Muslim Palestinian:
They were sitting in a coffee shop in Jerusalem and the young Muslim spoke in soft tones. He mentioned to Ravi that he had observed a conversation between a leading Muslim sheikh and a Christian missionary named Brother Andrew. The sheikh had recently ordered the killing of eight Israelis because the Israelis had killed four Palestinians whom they had accused of crimes against the Jewish people. Brother Andrew asked the sheikh, “Who appointed you judge and jury and gave you the authority to order such killings?”
The sheikh replied, “I am not the judge and jury. I am merely an instrument of God's justice.”
There was a moment of silence and then Brother Andrew asked, “What place is there, then, for forgiveness?”
The sheikh replied, “Forgiveness is only for those who deserve it.”
Now there was a real protracted silence. The young Palestinian said to Ravi, “I thought at once, this explains everything and nothing. If forgiveness is merited, then it's not really forgiveness, is it? But I remained silent,” the young Muslim said, “because I saw two completely different worldviews at work, both with a common starting point about God, but with radically different views of God.” (Ravi Zacharias, Jesus Among Secular Gods, FaithWords, 2017, www.PreachingToday.com)
You see, in Christianity, God forgives those who don’t deserve it, because Jesus paid the price for their sins on the cross. In Islam, and in all other religions, forgiveness is only possible if you made a mistake and your violation was unintentional, or if you could somehow pay for your sin and earn forgiveness.
However, in Islam, you never know if your good deeds will outweigh your bad deeds and make up for the wrong you’ve done. In Hinduism, you pay with endless cycles of karma. In Judaism, there is no sacrifice for deliberate sin.
Only in Christ do you find full and complete forgiveness, because He paid the price for your sins and mine, a price you and I could never pay. So don’t give up your hope in Christ, because He is your only hope of avoiding God’s judgment.
Besides, to deliberately turn away from Christ invites God’s judgment. God punishes those who willfully and deliberately reject His Son.
Hebrews 10:29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? (ESV)
Wow! That’s some strong language! Deliberately rejecting Christ after accepting His offer of salvation is like putting your foot on His neck, treating His blood as worthless, and insulting His grace. You can’t do that without repercussions!
Hebrews 10:30-31 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (ESV)
King David discovered the severity of God’s hand. He had become a powerful and wealthy king, but it all went to his head. When he was well established, 2 Samuel 24 says he wanted to quantify his greatness, so he ordered a numbering of the people under his rule. His advisors warned him not to do it, but in willful pride, he did it anyway.
Then David’s heart struck him and God’s prophet told him, “You have three choices: 1) Seven years of famine; 2) Three months of fleeing from your enemies; or 3) Three days of an epidemic in your land.”
David said, “Let us fall into the hand of the Lord”, the same expression we have here in Hebrews 10:31. He said, “Let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of man” (2 Samuel 24:14).
So God sent a three-day epidemic and 70,000 men died. God took away the very thing that made David proud, the great number of people under his rule. God’s hand is severe, but it is also a hand of mercy. 2 Samuel 24 says, God stayed His hand and limited His judgment. David never lost his place in God’s heart. He just lost his pride.
So it is with believers who turn away from Christ for a time. God loves you too much to let you go too far down the destructive path of willful rebellion. Instead, He stops you with His severe hand of mercy, so He can take away your pride, but never your place in His heart.
But why risk it in the first place? Don’t turn away from Christ to begin with. Don’t give up your hope in Him, because He is your only hope of avoiding God’s judgment.
DON’T RISK PUNISHMENT BY QUITTING.
Don’t take the chance of falling into God’s severe hand of mercy. Don’t gamble with God’s judgment by rejecting Christ. More than that…
DON’T WASTE YOUR PAIN BY QUITTING either.
Don’t trash your trials by throwing away your hope in Christ. Don’t spoil your suffering by giving up on Christ too soon.
Hebrews 10:32-34 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. (ESV)
These 1st Century believers suffered a lot! They endured a hard struggle with sufferings. They were publicly ridiculed, and their property was plundered.
Initially, they rejoiced in their sufferings, because they knew better days were ahead. They faced their persecutors with great courage. But after a while, they began to lose that courage; they began to wonder if following Christ was worth the pain; and they were tempted to give up their faith in Christ. So the author encourages them.
Hebrews 10:35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. (ESV)
Literally, don’t cast off your courage. Don’t give up before you experience the reward of your pain.
Some of you need that encouragement, as well. You’ve been through a long season of suffering and pain, and initially you handled it well. You were able to rejoice in your trial, because you knew that God would bring something good out of it. But now that the suffering has gone on much longer than you expected, you wonder if trusting the Lord will ever pay off.
Please, whatever you do, don’t give up on God too soon. Don’t cast off your courage. Don’t throw away your confidence in the Lord before experiencing the reward of your suffering.
In 1975, Salvatore Maddi, a psychologist at the University of Chicago, began to study the long-term impact of stress on employees at the Illinois Bell Telephone Company. It was supposed to be a simple longitudinal study. But in 1981, Congress passed the Telecommunications Competition and Deregulation Act, and the entire industry was disrupted. Within one year, Bell Telephone laid off half its workforce. Those who were left faced uncertainty, changing roles, and increased demands. As Maddi recalls, “One manager told me he had ten different supervisors in one year, and neither he nor they knew what they were supposed to do.”
Some employees crashed and burned under the pressure, developing health problems and depression. Other employees thrived, finding a new sense of purpose and enhanced well-being. Because Maddi had been studying these employees for years, he began to search for clues in how they had responded to the stress.
A few things stood out about people who thrived under stress. First, they thought about stress differently. They saw it as a normal aspect of life, and they didn't believe that it was possible or even desirable to have an entirely comfortable, safe life. Instead, they viewed stress as an opportunity to grow. They also believed that difficult times required not isolating oneself. Finally, no matter what the circumstances, these “thrivers” believed we must continue making choices—ones that could change the situation or, if that wasn't possible, that could change how the situation affected them. People who held these attitudes were more likely to take action and to connect with others during stress.
Maddi named this collection of attitudes and coping strategies “hardiness,” which he defined as the courage to grow from stress. (Kelly McGonigal, The Upside of Stress, Avery, 2016, pages 91-92; www.PreachingToday.com)
My dear friends, please, don’t lose that hardiness. Don’t cast off your courage to grow from stress. I know the road seems long and hard, but lean on Jesus to help you take that next step.
Don’t give up your hope in Christ, because He is your only hope. Don’t risk punishment by quitting. Don’t waste your pain by quitting. And finally…
DON’T MISS THE PROMISE BY QUITTING.
Don’t lose sight of God’s assurance by throwing away your hope in Christ. Don’t neglect God’s pledge to you by giving up on Christ too soon.
Hebrews 10:36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. (ESV)
And what has God promised? Well, in Hebrews God has promised perfection in Christ, i.e., wholeness and completeness in Him (6:1; 7:11,19; 9:9,14; 10:1,14), and God has also promised an eternal inheritance (4:1; 6:12,15,17; 7:6; 8:6; 9:15), the opportunity to rule and reign with Christ in His Kingdom. Those are wonderful promises, and they’re about to be realized.
Hebrews 10:37 For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay… (ESV)
Jesus is coming soon!
Hebrews 10:38-39 …but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. (ESV)
Jesus is coming soon when all of God’s promises will be fully realized. But until then, don’t give up your faith; don’t shrink back from believing in Christ. don’t stop trusting God to keep His promises to you.
I love the old story about an old missionary couple who had been working in Africa for years. They were returning to New York to retire. They had no pension. Their health was broken. They were defeated, discouraged, and afraid. It didn’t help when they discovered that they were booked on the same ship as President Teddy Roosevelt. He was returning from one of his big-game hunting expeditions in Africa.
No one paid any attention to the old missionary couple as they watched the fanfare that accompanied the president’s entourage. Instead, all the passengers were focused on trying to catch a glimpse of this famous man.
As the ship moved across the ocean, the old missionary said to his wife, “Something is wrong. Why should we have given our lives in faithful service to God in Africa all these years and yet no one even cares. Here, this man comes back from a hunting trip and he gets all this attention. Nobody gives “two hoots” about us.”
“Dear,” his wife said. “You shouldn’t feel that way.”
“I can’t help it,” her husband replied. “It doesn’t seem right.”
When the ship docked in New York, a band was waiting to greet the president. The mayor and other dignitaries were there. The papers were full of stories about the president’s arrival, but no one even noticed the old missionary couple. They slipped off the ship and found a cheap apartment on the East Side, hoping to see what they could do to make a living the next day.
That night, the man’s spirit broke. He said to his wife, “I can’t take this. God is not treating us fairly.”
His wife replied, “Why don’t you go in the bedroom and tell that to the Lord.” So that’s what the man did. Then a short time later, he came out of the bedroom with a completely different demeanor. His wife asked him, “Dear, what happened?”
“The Lord settled it with me,” the old missionary said. “I told Him how bitter I was that the president should receive this tremendous homecoming when not a single person noticed us as we returned home. And when I finished, it seemed as though the Lord put his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘But you’re not home yet!’” (Ray Stedman, Talking to My Father)
My dear friends, I know this life is often unfair. The righteous suffer and the wicked prosper. The faithful are ignored and the famous admired. But you’re not home yet! Please, don’t lose sight of that. You’re not home yet where you will experience the realization of all God’s promises.
Don’t give up your hope in Christ, because He is your only hope. Don’t risk punishment by quitting. Don’t waste your pain by quitting, and don’t miss the promise by quitting either.
Pastor Mark Coleman loves to hike, and he wanted to pass that love on to his son, Peter. So, when Peter was only 5 years old, Coleman planned an easy hike on the northern part of the Appalachian Trail. His plan was to walk around a mountain to a lake in Vermont where they would spend the night. Coleman made thorough preparations for the trip, which included coaching his son. Over and over Coleman told his boy that it would be tough, and it was okay to be tired, but they had to keep on walking. They had to keep on walking.
Unfortunately, the walking was longer and tougher than expected, because Coleman accidently led them OVER the mountain, not AROUND it. The trail was steep and broken. Little Peter stumbled time after time on loose rocks, but they kept on walking. The hike was a burden, not a joy, but they kept on walking. Peter fell so many times that he ripped the knees of his jeans, but he kept on walking. Finally, after one fall too many, he sat and cried.
As Mark approached him and began to speak, Peter cut him off: “I know, Dad. It's okay to cry, as long as I keep on walking.” (From a sermon by Mark Coleman, 3-16-03; www.PreachingToday.com)
My dear friends, cry if you must, but keep on walking with Christ. Keep on walking until you reach that crystal sea in heaven itself.