When You’re Ready to Quit
Dr. Jim Denison
There is a story going around that at a computer exposition, Bill Gates compared the computer industry with the automobile industry and stated, “If GM had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25.00 cars that got 1,000 miles to the gallon.”
It goes on that in response, GM issued a press release stating that if GM had developed technology like Microsoft, we would all be driving cars with the following characteristics. (1) For no reason whatsoever, your car would crash twice a day. (2) About every two to three years, you would have to buy a new car. (3) Occasionally your car would die on the freeway for no reason. You would have to pull over to the side of the road, close all the windows, shut off the car, restart it, and reopen the windows before you could continue. For some reason, you would simply accept this. (4) The oil, water temperature, and alternator warning lights would all be replaced by a single ‘This Car Has Performed An Illegal Operation’ warning light. (5) The airbag system would ask ‘Are you sure?’ before deploying. (6) Occasionally, for no reason at all, your car would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key and grabbed hold of the radio antenna. (7) Every time a new car was introduced car buyers would have to learn how to drive all over again because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car. (8) You’d have to press the ‘Start’ button to turn the engine off.
Life is filled with challenges which technology cannot solve for us. There are times when life crashes with no reboot in sight, when the road dead ends no matter what car we’re driving. What is your greatest struggle, or shame, or disappointment? Where does it seem God is silent to your cries, unreceptive to your prayers, distant to your pain? What do we do there?
Our text tells us to keep worshiping God. Keep trusting God. Keep going to God. Don’t give up. Don’t quit. But why not, when you’ve given God all the time and opportunity he needs and he is still silent? Let’s see how God answers our question.
Where has God disappointed you? (v. 27)
Judah was all that is left of God’s chosen people. But now the nation is in exile in Babylon, her homeland burned and destroyed. She is the South just after Sherman’s march through Atlanta. Her people feel they have no future, that their God has abandoned them or is too weak to help them. This was never to happen to them. So God’s people are “weak” and “weary”—these words appear in every verse from 28 to 31. They are depressed and ready to quit on God.
They’re not the last.
Philip Yancey’s classic book, Disappointment With God, tells the stories of suffering souls he has known and interviewed, many of whom felt they had reason to give up on their faith. In a fascinating irony, I noticed this week that my copy has a label on the cover which says, “100% Money Back Guarantee. If for any reason you are dissatisfied with ‘Disappointment with God,’ return it postpaid (with the receipt) to Zondervan Publishing House for a complete refund.” The book comes with a money-back guarantee. But the faith it describes does not, in the experience of many of us.
We become disappointed with God for two reasons.
Sometimes we feel, “My way is hidden from the Lord.” “Way” in the Hebrew means our “condition;” “hidden” means “unknown.” My condition or problem is unknown to God, or he would do something about it. He doesn’t know about me.
Or he doesn’t care: “my cause is disregarded by my God.” He knows about me, but doesn’t care to get involved. It’s not his intelligence which is limited, but his love.
Either he doesn’t know, or he doesn’t care. Otherwise, why won’t he help us? Why won’t he get us out of our Babylonian slavery and transport us to the Promised Land? Why is he unfair, or silent, or hidden?
Be honest and specific: aren’t you asking such questions in your mind or spirit, either consciously or unconsciously? Don’t you have nagging doubts, or even worse, shouting pain in your soul? You prayed for a loved one who died anyway; you asked God to keep you from falling into sin again, but you fell anyway; you asked God to guide your decision, but it was the wrong one; you asked him to heal you, but he hasn’t; you asked him for a job, but you’re still unemployed; you’ve told him of your loneliness, but you’re still alone.
Why hasn’t he helped you? (v. 28-31a)
Why hasn’t this God helped you?
It’s not because he doesn’t know, that your “way is hidden from the Lord.” You see, “The Lord is the everlasting God” (v. 28a). He is the God of all time. He is present in every moment, aware of every event, omniscient in every second, in ancient Babylon and in Dallas this morning.
And it’s not because he can’t help, for he is “the Creator of the ends of the earth” (v. 28b). He is the God of time and space. He created Babylon; he created Dallas; he created you.
“He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.” It’s not because he doesn’t know or cannot help.
Then why? It’s not because he doesn’t want to help us: “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak” (v. 29). These verbs are in the active sense—this is his initiative, his choice, his action. They are in the present tense—he is still doing this.
Then why not for you?
Perhaps he is answering your prayers in ways you do not yet see. Before your next employer can call you with a job opening, the person in that position must move to California to take a job with a firm there. God is engineering that step, so he can then move you. Dominoes you cannot see must fall first.
Perhaps he is meeting your needs in ways you will never see. Silent angelic protection from unseen harm; anonymous donors of time, money, and support; a greater good through the present pain than you will be able to recognize this side of glory.
But I’m convinced that much of the time, our problems apparently go unsolved and our prayers apparently unanswered because we do not put ourselves in position to receive all that our Father wants to give.
Our culture is tempted daily to trust in ourselves, to solve our own problems, to meet our own needs. Some sociologists believe that the two most pressured, stressed, driven cultures in the world are Tokyo, Japan and North Dallas.
But “even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall” (v. 30). “Youths” is a technical Hebrew word for those specially trained and selected for hazardous battle due to their unusual physical strength and endurance. Even the youngest and the strongest will inevitably grow weary and fail. An Olympic swimming champion cannot swim to Hawaii.
So what does he want us to do? “Hope in the Lord” (v. 31a).
This Hebrew phrase means to trust in the Lord, to stay connected to him, to remain dependent upon him. To “place your hope” in God, rather than in yourself or any anything or anyone but him. This is an active word, not passive—to find ways to trust in God.
Don’t give up, or give out, or give in. Keep worshiping God even when you don’t feel like it or want to, for that’s when you need such worship the most. Healthy people don’t need doctors, Jesus said. Keep reading his word, keep praying, keep obeying, keep trusting. Keep hoping in the Lord. A power tool can be connected to only one source. And it must stay connected to that source until the power comes on.
When we “hope in the Lord,” what does he promise he’ll do?
What will he do for us? (v. 31)
There are four promises, four “wills” here. First, you “will” renew your strength.
“Renew” means to exchange our strength for his, in the sense of trading an old Volkswagen Beetle for a new Ferrari. He will replace our failing strength with his divine, omnipotent power.
Paul heard this God say, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12.9). His grace, his power—not ours. And so Paul could testify: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Paul knew about the exchanged life, ours for God’s. His strength, his power, his help, his resources flowing into us and through us. If we don’t quit. If we stay connected to this God in trusting worship.
Then we “will” soar on wings like eagles. Sometimes we need God to set us free from our bondage, our failures, our past. And he will.
We “will” run and not grow weary. Sometimes we need God to empower us as we run the race before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).
And we “will” walk and not be faint. This is sometimes the hardest thing to do—to keep on going, no matter what happens to us. To walk and not faint, even when we should and even when we want to.
But note this fact: the Lord says that we “will” renew our strength, but he doesn’t say when: “Let us not become weary in well doing, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).
We may see today God’s plan and purpose in this problem and disappointment; we may see it tomorrow. Or we may not see it until we are in glory with our Lord: “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
When Mike Yaconelli and his wife lost their young child, someone asked him how he was doing. He replied, “We’re making it day to day, knowing that one day we will be able to ask God some very hard questions.”
We have learned that our God is holy, thus deserving of worship brought to him with clean hands and hearts. We have learned that he is forgiving, so that he will cleanse every sin we confess and purify us so that we can worship him. We have learned today that our God is love, so that he will hear every prayer we offer in worship, and meet every need we trust to him according to his will and timing, for his glory and our good.
So we will make intercession part of our worship each week and each day. We will bring our disappointments, frustrations, and pain to this God who is love. And we will trade in our strength for his, as we hope in him. When we’re ready to quit, we will not give up on God. Because he will not give up on us.
Missionary Thomas Dooley told the story of an old Chinese man who had once worked on a commune in Red China with his son. During harvest, his son had taken a few handfuls of rice to give to his starving mother. He was discovered. The authorities imprisoned him in a cage so small that the boy could not move or sit up straight. They placed his cage in the center of the city. His father was forced to watch, as day after day he died slowly, under the broiling sun with nothing to eat or drink, covered with flies and ants. The father said, “It was good when the guards pronounced him dead.”
If a father chose to watch his son die in your cage, for your crimes, would you ever doubt again his love for you? Make the words of the hymn writer your commitment today:
Beneath the cross of Jesus
I fain would take my stand,
the shadow of a mighty rock
within a weary land;
a home within the wilderness,
a rest upon the way,
from the burning of the noontide heat,
and the burden of the day.
Upon that cross of Jesus
mine eye at times can see
the very dying form of One
who suffered there for me;
and from my stricken heart with tears
two wonders I confess:
the wonders of redeeming love
and my unworthiness.
I take, O cross, thy shadow
for my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine than
the sunshine of his face;
content to let the world go by,
to know no gain or loss,
my sinful self my only shame,
my glory all the cross.
You worship today the God who is love. Don’t give up on him, for he will never give up on you.