Don’t give up

One thing which I’ve been trying to develop in myself is a fighting spirit, a spirit that refuses to give up until the victory is won.

When I face an obstacle, my natural reaction is to get stressed and freeze up. I bury my head in the sand and hope that the problem will go away by itself. Now that’s not a positive way to deal with problems, so instead I’ve been trying to cultivate the habit of not giving up. Now, if I face a difficulty, I keep trying to find a solution to the problem until I see my breakthrough.

As Christians, we should always keep battling on because God has promised that we will be victorious if we don’t give up.

Promises where God guarantees us the victory can be found in Romans 8, where Paul tells us that God works all things for the good of those who love Him, and assures us that we are more than conquerors through God who loves us. In Jeremiah 29:11, the prophet tells us that God has plans to prosper us and Galatians 6:9 tells us to “not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” In 2 Chronicles 15:7, we are also encouraged to “be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded”.

The Bible is full of stories of people facing obstacles and overcoming them by God’s grace.

David defeated the giant Goliath with just a pebble, overcoming a mighty warrior who was much bigger, stronger, more experienced and better equipped.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to worship the King’s idol and were thrown into a fiery furnace. God delivered them from the flames by sending an angel to protect them in the fire and the escaped – victorious – without even the smell of smoke on their clothes.

Abraham was about 75 years old when God promised him a son. The patriarch had to learn not to give up as he waited patiently for 25 years before his wife delivered him his son Isaac.

The ultimate example of God giving us the victory when we don’t give up comes in the example of Christ. Our Lord was crucified and buried, but was raised to life. Christ’s victory over death teaches us to not give up, for even when our circumstances seem hopeless – dead and buried – God can resurrect our dead dreams.

Don’t let your circumstances stop you from pursuing your dreams

This week’s blog post builds on last week’s entry about pursuing your dreams.

As Christians, the way we pursue our dreams is radically different from the way the world pursues its dreams. If you are a regular non-Christian, when you’re deciding whether to take the risk to pursue a dream, you would naturally look at your circumstances. If your circumstances are positive, if it looks like it’s going to be easy for you to pursue your dreams and the events in your life make it smooth for you to chase your passion, you’ll take the step to go after your dream. But if you see trouble in the horizon and have enemies and obstacles blocking your path, you would freeze and not pursue your dream.

For Christians, the Bible shows us that we shouldn’t let negative circumstances stop us from pursuing our passions. Many times, God uses our set-backs to become stepping-stones for our success.

Take the example of Joseph. When he was a teenager, he had a dream that he would be great and that his whole family would bow down before him. When he told his brothers about his dream, this made them angry with envy. They beat up Joseph and sold him as a slave to some merchants bound for Egypt. Yet Joseph’s difficult circumstance – being a slave – couldn’t put him down. He became highly successful as a slave and his master Potiphar entrusted his entire household to Joseph’s care. But then disaster struck again. Potiphar’s wife lusted after Joseph, and when he resisted her advances, she set him up, accusing him of attempting to rape her. Joseph’s master Potiphar was furious and had Joseph sent to prison. So Joseph was in a terrible circumstance again – in prison – how could he ever achieve his dreams while trapped in a dark dungeon? Yet God used this obstacle as a method to promote Joseph. While he was in prison, Joseph successfully interpreted one of his cell mate’s dreams, so when Pharaoh was looking for someone to interpret his disturbing dreams, Joseph’s former cell-mate recommended Joseph. When he was brought before Pharaoh, Joseph successfully interpreted the ruler’s dream and Pharaoh was so impressed with Joseph, that he made Joseph Prime Minister of Egypt. Thus Joseph achieved his dreams even though he was in the most desperate of circumstances, as God used his obstacles to help take him to the highest level.

Peter was another man who had to learn not to let his circumstances stop him from achieving his dream. During a stormy night, when he was in the boat with the other disciples, Peter saw Jesus walking on water. Inspired by the Lord’s miraculous feat, something stirred inside Peter and he wanted to do something as amazing as what Jesus did – Peter wanted to walk on water too. Peter cried out to Jesus to enable him to walk on water and Jesus invited Peter to join him on the choppy waves. Peter jumped out of the boat and began living his dream – he walked on water, with the liquid under his feat solid as rock. But then Peter started focusing on his circumstances – that he was in the middle of a violent storm – and started to panic. Peter’s fear caused him to sink and he would have been a goner if Jesus had not reached out to him and caught him.

Peter’s experience teaches us an important lesson. When Peter had faith and kept his eyes on Jesus, he could do the impossible. But when Peter focused on his impossible circumstance, instead of Jesus, he started to sink. In the same way, we should stay focused on our God who can do the impossible, instead of the impossible obstacles that block the way to our dreams.

Don’t let your weakness stop you from pursuing your dreams

Do you have a dream in your heart that you’re not pursuing because you fear that you’re not good enough? Do you have a passion that you’ve squashed because you think you don’t have the ability to be a success in that area?

In order to be a success as a Christian, you have to stop assessing your dreams in the way the world does. The world’s way of deciding whether or not to pursue a dream is to look at your gifts, strengths and natural abilities. If we are strong in a particular area, we will pursue the dream but if we are weak, our fear of failure holds us back from pursuing the goal.

But God’s way is different. God often asks us to pursue things where we are weak in. God uses our weakness to make us rely on Himself. God uses our weakness as an opportunity to show forth His strength by His grace.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, Paul writes:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

David was another man who knew how to be strong in God through his weakness. When David faced Goliath with only five smooth stones, he was facing an adversary who had much more training and experience, who was much bigger and stronger and more skilful in battle than him. But David wasn’t intimidated by the strength of his enemy. David knew that despite his weaknesses, he could conquer any opponent as long as God was on his side. In the end, David defeated a giant with just a small pebble. God was strong in David’s weakness and His divine strength enabled David to accomplish something great.

In fact, God loves it when we are weak and we have to rely on Him for our strength. The story of Gideon fighting the Midianites shows that God purposely made Gideon weak so that He could glorify Himself when the weak Israelite army won the battle over their opponents.

In Judges 7, we find the account of how God reduced the number of men in Gideon’s army so He could gain the credit for their victory:

Early in the morning, Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) and all his men camped at the spring of Harod. The camp of Midian was north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’ Now announce to the army, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.

 But the Lord said to Gideon, “There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will thin them out for you there. If I say, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go; but if I say, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.”

 So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord told him, “Separate those who lap the water with their tongues as a dog laps from those who kneel down to drink.” Three hundred of them drank from cupped hands, lapping like dogs. All the rest got down on their knees to drink.

 The Lord said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the others go home.” So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites home but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others.

In 1 Corinthians 1:26-29, Paul tells us how God chooses the weak to shame the strong, so no one can boast before Him:

 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.

We can be encouraged when we see our weaknesses because God can overcome our inability with His ability. Let God’s supernatural help us overcome our natural weakness.

In Zechariah 4:6, the prophet says:

This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.’

We can view our weakness as an opportunity to gain new skills, to grow, to be strong in an area you’re weak in, to gain new confidence in an ability that you’ve acquired that you didn’t have before.

Your weakness is an opportunity for God to do something new, to equip you with fresh power and might, to arm you with new abilities. Your weakness is an opportunity for growth, a chance for you to stretch yourself and conquer new frontiers.

So don’t let your weakness stop you pursuing your dreams and passions. Bravely decide that you’re going to pursue your goals no matter how weak you might feel, and rely on God to empower you to do even the impossible! If God has put a passion in your heart, then He will also provide the resources for you to achieve that passion. Rely on God and not your natural ability and you can fly to heights that you never thought possible.