Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
There were many casualties in World War II. The most costly in terms of American troops losses was the 1944 Battle of the Bulge—over 100,000 men were killed. It was a disaster for the Germans as well. A movie was made called Battle of the Bulge.
At the end of World War II, Winston Churchill was attending a dinner. One man stood up and said, “At the Battle of the Bulge we had evidence that the British soldiers were braver than the Nazi soldiers”. In his forthright manner, and way with words, Churchill stood and replied “That’s not true. The Nazi soldiers were just as brave as the British soldiers. But the British soldiers were brave for 5 minutes longer”.
Perseverance and bravery are key words to any conflict—as they are to life today. We may face adversity and hardship. Life can be like a cold, dark winter’s day. No sunshine. We need a ‘dose’ of extra strength to face a difficult experience, like the news of a terminal illness, or the sudden death of a friend one. There are many stories like this.
My message today is simple: Don’t give up. The problems of life can sometimes come upon us and before we can get one thing straightened out, we are bombarded with another. Life is just like that old saying: “When it rains, it pours”.
The Lesson of the Farmer
It’s very much like a young man who decides he’s going to take after his father, and his father’s father, and take over the family farm. He’s excited! He’s always loved farming side-by-side with his dad. He loves the fresh air in his lungs. He loves the sun on his back. He loves working close to the earth, sowing the seed, watching it grow, and taking in the harvest.
And now, finally, the responsibility of making that farm work is being transferred onto his shoulders. It’s going to be up to him, now, to make a go of it. But the young man isn’t worried. “Farming is fun,” he says. “I feel good about farming. I’ve always felt good about farming!”
But then what happens? The seed is sown and the crop begins to grow. So far so good. But after a few weeks our young farmer begins to notice that insects, thousands of them, are destroying the crops. He buys the right kind of insecticide, sprays the crops, and the bug problem gradually disappears. A near disaster is averted.
But now, with the success or failure of the farm square on his shoulders, our young farmer is beginning to have some doubts. He begins to think, “Well, that disaster was averted, but I’m not feeling as good about farming as I used to.” The season goes on, and the sky dries up. It’s getting into late July, and if there isn’t any rain soon, the crops will be stunted. Our young farmer is thinking, “We need a good one to two inches. Boy, I’m just not feeling as good about farming as I used to.”
In just a couple of days those one to two inches come pouring down all at once. In general, this is what the crops needed. But part of one field is flooded and completely ruined. Part of another field is damaged by hail and partially ruined. The crop as a whole will still make it, but it won’t be as good a harvest as our young farmer was hoping for at the beginning of the growing season.
Now the young man isn’t feeling good about farming at all! In fact, he’s feeling so badly that he comes to his father at the end of a hard day and says, “Dad, I don’t think I want to take over the farm. The way I’m feeling right now, I feel like quitting farming, going into town, and finding a job. At least I’ll be free from all these frustrations!”
The father takes him into the living room and they both sit down facing each other—father to son. And the father says to him, “Son, I can’t make this decision for you. But I can give you the benefit of my years and experience. In all my years of farming, I’ve found it to be a very rewarding profession. But I’ve also experienced the ups-and-downs that go along with it. Some years you have a mediocre crop like this year’s was. Other years are just plain bad, and you may end up taking a loss. And still other years are very good and make up for the bad ones. If you stick with it, and you’re faithful to it, you can build up a good business in the end, and the rewards are many. But you’ve got to be able to take the suffering along with the good times.”
Be Ready for Difficult Days
A simple story, but true. We need to be ready for the hard days, and not be surprised. I think that’s why the Apostle Paul said to the Corinthian Christians: “That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” (2 Corinthians 4:15-17 NLT). The Christian faith makes us resilient and more able to face the dark days. God never gives up on us. He loves us too much to leave us alone.
I suppose most of us, at one time or another, have felt like giving up. Facing the pressures of daily problems and the tensions of the time—maybe the moral corruption that surrounds us—we get to the point where we say, ”I think I’ll just give up. I think I’ll just lay things aside.” Some of the great people in the Bible felt like giving up at times, I think.
Remember the story of the great prophet Elijah. After a great mountain-top experience Elijah had a little time when he was down in the dumps and had the blues. He said, ”Lord, this is enough, just take me on to glory. I’m ready to give up.”
Then the great prophet Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, got to the point that he was ready to give up. In fact, he said to the Lord, ”Lord, I think I’ll just quit the ministry and get me a little motel on the side of the road and let things go by.” He felt like giving up.
All of us have felt like giving up from time to time. I believe that as we read the life of Paul and follow him as he comes to the city of Corinth, it is the case that Paul was going through a period of dejection and despondency—maybe indeed the great Apostle Paul was filled with depression and thinking maybe about giving up.
Don’t allow the difficulties of life knock you down permanently. God will help you up and turn your life around. He does that all the time!