Points Covered: Mind of Apostle Paul that enabled him to persevere and complete his race.
All of us at some time or another want to give up and quit. You may be one of the persons today who want to quit. You are thinking, “Why should I be doing what I am doing, the harder I try, worse things get. I have decided I do not have to bear with it and I quit.”
Sometimes God’s people want to quit. Moses was the greatest leader handpicked by God. He lead the children of Israel away from pharaoh and across the Red Sea. But in Numbers 11:15 If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me.
Elijah Greatest prophet of OT, willing to challenge the idolatry of his day, called fire down from heaven, won a face-off with prophets of Baal, but in 1 Kings 19:4 He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”
Job, we talk about his patience and faith, and he was truly a great man. He had a great beginning and a great ending, but in-between, when he lost everything, he wished he had not been born, became suicidal, extremely depressed for a period of time! Job 3:3 May the day of my birth perish, and the night that said, ‘A boy is conceived.’
In Acts 18 wed final Paul in his 2nd missionary journey, arriving from Athens to Corinth experiencing a low time in his life. 1 Corinthians 2:3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.
Paul was fatigued (53 mile walk). He was alone. He was ministering and tent making, stressed, and pressed in his spirit. Had a sense of failure with not much success in Athens. He was at a low point, a crossroads in his ministry, and he was just about to quit!
But the Lord came to Paul on this day, and showed him that trying times are not the time to quit! Acts 18:9-10 9One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.”
In 2 Corinthians 11 Paul described some of the persecutions and hardships he went though in life: 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 23I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.
Later Paul wrote to Timothy: 2 Timothy 4:7-8 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. Paul talks about what he has been through in life. He has been through tough situations in life and yet did not quit. He persevered and completed his race.
You may be going through a difficult phase of life. Don’t quit because the more the difficult it gets, the more closer you are to your promise.
How do we persevere?
What motivated him to keep on going when everything in him would have said quit? There is something that Paul knew and did that every one of us need to understand in life because we are all going to be tested, or are going through the test of calling it quits. So I want you to look at the reasons and motivations that kept Paul going when the going got tough.
1. God’s presence.
In the midst of all these what kept Paul going is the awareness of God’s constant presence in his life. It’s easy to believe God when everything’s fine, but when tough times come we quit. Paul had a lot of reasons to quit but he did not because he knew God was with him.
Acts 23:11 The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”
Hebrews 13:5 Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.
Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Gospel of Matthew starts and ends with God’s assurance of his presence with us.
Matthew 1:23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
Matthew 28:20 And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
Illustration: A little boy went home after school very sad and told mom about Billy, his best friend, who had been absent for 3 days and found out when he returned to class that his daddy died, and when he told us, he cried and just laid his head flat on his desk. Mom asked: “What did you do?” I didn’t know what to do, so I just laid my head on my desk and cried, too! That’s the kind of Savior we have! Bible says, “He’s TOUCHED” with the feelings of our infirmities!
In the valley when defeat comes, when you are discouraged with sickness, financial problems, heartaches, or family troubles; remember that God is still there with you in your valley. Do you believe that God is with you? Yes. Do you claim that upon your life? So don’t give up. The awareness of his presence will take you through tough times.
2. God’s protection.
Many times we will have to take the lonely path of danger, abuse or schemes of the enemy but it is the Lord who protects. Acts 18:10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.
Sometimes we face risk in our life chasing our dream. It maybe our enemies or life threat because of the gospel and so on. It is God who protects us. They might have killed the Apostle Paul, but not until he was able to say, “I have finished my course.” They killed the Lord Jesus, but not before He said, “It is finished!”
God has a purpose for your life. And if you choose to, you can live it out, fearlessly…though there will be persecution, trials and hardships…but until your work here is done, God’s not finished with you, the devil can’t harm you, no man can hurt you, witchcraft will not destroy you.
Illustration: Fredrick Nolan, serving God in N. Africa in the midst of terrible persecution. Christians were running for their lives and Nolan was fleeing on foot. Exhausted he stopped to catch his breath and saw a small cave, went in to await his enemies locating him, inevitably killing him. As he sat, he saw a small spider weaving a web across the mouth of that cave, eventually the web covered the entire mouth! He sat fascinated as the persecutors arrived. They saw the cave, marched toward it, saw the web and said, “he couldn’t be in there!” They left and he escaped! Later, he said, “with God, a spider web is like a wall and without God, a wall is like a spider web!”
3. God’s Strength.
Whenever you feel weak and want to quit we receive the strength of God. When Paul experienced trials, he received strength from God. Because Paul depended on the power of almighty God, he could say: Philippians 4:13 I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.
Today that same divine energy is within every believer through the presence of the Holy Spirit. This means we each have within us the strength to do the will of God. We have the strength to complete what we have started. We have the strength to endure. We may not feel it, but it’s there. However, having God’s power doesn’t exempt us from trouble.
4. God’s Will.
God had called Paul to preach the gospel and reach the Gentiles with the message of salvation. Acts 13:47 For this is what the Lord has commanded us: I have made you a light for the gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth. Paul was confident he was doing God’s will, so he could face and endure whatever difficulties came across his path because he was sure he was doing the will of God.
A deep conviction of being in the perfect will of God gives you the confidence to endure.
5. God’s Joy.
Overflowing joy that fills our heart. In the Book of Philippians Apostle Paul is in jail and he is talking about joy. He starts off talking about where he is and what is happening in jail. He says Philippians 1:12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.
How is that possible? Because all the guards that came into guard him he shared the gospel with them. You find the sense of joy throughout Paul’s writing.
Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.
Paul is still rejoicing and he is still in prison. He had the joy of the Lord in him. HE had a thousand reasons to quit but he did not because of the joy of the Lord.
So do you rejoice? Do you have any happy moments when things are tough? Can you say praise the Lord, I bless your name when the going gets tough? Can you rejoice or do you question God? Even in jail, when he is close to death he can rejoice because he know that everything that happens in his life will turn around for his own good. So rejoice.
6. God’s Heroes.
Hebrews 12:1-3 1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Illustration: Ishant Sharma, the Indian fast bowler had a great start as a bowler. Then he went through a rough patch in his career. People thought he is past his best. Then, he sought help from retired international blowers like Wasim Akram etc who helped him come out of his rough patch. Today, he is a great bowler again.
Hebrews 11:7 tells us of Noah. Remember Noah. He spent 120 years of his life building an ark – Yes 120 years. That is a lot of time, a lot of patience.
I can hear Noah telling us, – “How long have you been waiting for something? It took me 120 years to build the ark, it was never easy. People mocked at me, they asked me are you sure you really heard God? I kept building the ark for 120 years and finally the floods came and I and my family were saved. So, you need to keep on doing the good work, do not stop, do not quit.”
In v8 we see Abraham. God called him out of his father’s house. Promised a son in his old age and God asked Abraham to sacrifice that son. Abraham passed all test. Today, Abraham is whispering in our ears when you follow God others will think you are crazy but hold on God will fulfill all his promises on you. Don’t quit.
In V22 we have Joseph. Joseph was sold into slavery. Accused of crimes he did not commit and thrown in prison. Yet he was true to God. But then suddenly God changed the circumstances and he became the Prime Minster of Egypt. Joseph was faithful to God all the way.
Joseph is telling us be faithful to God when things are not going your way. When you are discouraged, accused, face failure never quit. God will lift you up.
So when I’m discouraged, I hear their voices saying, “If we can do it, then you can do it, too.”
The Bible gives us a great list of winners but the greatest example of endurance is Jesus. When Jesus willingly sacrificed Himself on our behalf, He set the ultimate example of perseverance. Jesus was opposed. Jesus was persecuted. And yet He stayed the course. He ran the race. He paid the price for our sins.
Illustration: In 1968 Olympic marathon Tanzanian runner, Akhwari cramped up due to the high altitude of the Mexico City. He fell badly wounding his knee and dislocated that joint plus his shoulder hit hard against the pavement. He however continued running, finishing last among the competitors who completed the race. The winner of the marathon, Mamo Wolde of Ethiopia, finished in 2:20:26. Akhwari finished in 3:25:27, when there were only a few thousand people left in the stadium, and the sun had set. A television crew was sent out from the medal ceremony when word was received that there was one more runner about to finish.
As he finally crossed the finish line a cheer came from the small crowd. When interviewed later and asked why he continued running, he said, “My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race; they sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race.
Today what are you tempted to give up on? What are you tempted to walk away from? I don’t know if you are going through a tough marriage, troubled relationships, or you have entered college and feeling like quitting. You have a new job and it is going difficult and planning to quit.
Are you willing to say to him, “Lord I am going to hang in wherever you have placed me. I will not move unless you ask me to move. I know if I am where you have placed me you are by my side and will see me through this difficulty.