When faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges, are you tempted to give up on yourself?
After describing a season in which God’s leaders gave up, Azariah son of Oded said to King Asa of Judah: “But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded” (2 Chronicles 15:7). King Asa’s response to the call to not give up on himself was clearly stated in the following verse: “He took courage” (2 Chronicles 15:8). The writer went on to describe Asa’s heart as “fully committed to the LORD” (2 Chronicles 15:17).
“Do not give up” is raphah in Hebrew, meaning “to sink or to relax, to lose courage.” Interestingly, we tend to sink when we lose or relax when we win. Our perspective of a challenge can appear either too big when we are defeated or too small when we are victorious. In either event, we lose courage.
When we lose severely, we often sink because the challenge seems too big, or too hard. One of the four chambers of the heart begins to crack in discouragement. We say on the inside, “I will not, I think not, I pray not, or I want not.” Conversely, when we win a great deal, achievement can appear too easy. We often relax due to the lack of challenges in our lives, similar to victorious King David’s sin with Bathsheba that stemmed from him not going to war in the spring as was customary to kings.
Jesus never gave up on Himself. In His high priestly prayer, Jesus said to His heavenly Father: “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4). On the cross, Jesus confirmed that He had indeed finished what He had started (John 19:30).
The writer of Hebrews called believers to model His endurance: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3). These verses paint a picture of a runner, who prior to a race, would throw off the training weights that were hooked in his uniform so that he would be free to endure the upcoming challenge.
Sin trusts in our own design, rather than God’s. Consequently, it is a heavy burden that hinders us from persevering toward the unique expression of Christ in us. Because it begins in the heart, sin entangles itself into the fabric of our lives, discouraging and disconnecting us from who we were designed to be. Therefore, never giving up on ourselves means never giving up on humbling our hearts to God’s design for our lives, as was the pattern of Jesus. Paul challenged Timothy: “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3).
In order to endure, or never give up on ourselves, we forever live up to God’s design. When discouraged enough to quit, we have the courage to commit all four chambers of the heart in order to finish what we start — the advancement of God’s kingdom in us. We stop saying, “I will not, I think not, I pray not, or I want not to surrender to His kingdom.” Rather, on the inside we keep saying, “I will, I think, I pray, and I want to surrender to God’s design for my life, the unique expression of Christ in me.”
In what area of your life have you noticed a crack of discouragement in your heart? Is it one where your challenge seems too big because you have been defeated or one where your challenge appears too small, leaving you restless from multiple victories? Is discouragement surfacing in your marriage, parenting, ministry, education, friendships, or career? Identify that specific area of life where you find yourself saying, “I will not, I think not, I pray not, or I want not.” Next, confess to the Father your shortfall from the heart of Christ. Ask Him to restore your heart to be like His, saying, “I will, I think, I pray, and I want surrender of my heart to Christ. Advance His kingdom in me.”