Don’t Give Up: Following Jesus Is Worth Every Single Second of Despair

Note: This is the finale of a series on the idea of not giving up in different scenarios. Previous posts include entries on workrelationships and depression & anxiety.

I’ve been on the brink of quitting following Christ several times.

The majority of those times have been the result of realizing how terrible I am at being obedient. Maybe I committed a particular sin that makes me feel like human feces. I think, “Well, wouldn’t it just be easier to quit? Wouldn’t it just be easier to ditch the whole thing and do my own thing? Sure wouldn’t feel so guilty all the time.”

The despair was rising, the depression setting in strong. I felt empty, gone, done. What’s the point anymore? If everything is just going to end up this way, where I’m frustrated about my proficiency at following Jesus, why keep going?

There are times I still feel this way. But I want to share with you something I learned, something that keeps me going.

It’s not about your “proficiency” at following Jesus. It’s simply following Him at all that is obedience.

Let me explain with a video game analogy.

I don’t play a lot of one-person shooter video games, but in the ones I’ve played, there’s usually some kind of quest or mission. You usually know how to get to the next step of the mission by an arrow or some kind of directional method that points you where to go next.

Let’s take the first game of this kind that I ever owned – Halo 3:ODST. Actually a pretty boss single-player mode for someone who’s not a video game geek. You start by landing on a planet looking for some missing teammates. How you progress through the levels is simply by killing aliens and reaching the next objective.

One of the beauties of these games it that there’s no set way you have to get through the levels. Obviously you have to achieve all the objectives, but you can die as many times as you must to achieve the mission. Each time you die, you get to start again.

Following Jesus is a lot like that.

Say you’re on a mission to overcome a certain sin. You enter the “level” – facing temptation. You fight it off for a little bit, but then you “die” – succumb to the temptation. In video games, you get a second chance, third chance, fourth chance, etc. In following Jesus, you get the same.

If you lie or cheat or boast or get drunk or commit sexual sin or whatever, following Christ means you get to get up and try again, just like Master Chief or Samus Aran or whatever video game hero you love the most.

Proverbs 24:16 says, “the righteous falls seven times and rises again.” Righteousness doesn’t show itself by perfection, but by rebounding from the fall. Every single time you stumble, Christian, you have the opportunity to get back up and you’re still loved by God. You can get back in the battle.

That’s why I encourage you here, in the final post of this series, to never give up in your walk with Jesus. God is on your side! He has given you the tools – His Holy Spirit, the Bible, brothers and sisters in Christ around you – to bounce back with strength. You won’t always bounce back well. I sure don’t. But you have the ability and power to bounce back.

So in this final post of the series (written about three weeks after the last post), I want to make one last encouragement to you. It’s something I’ve been trying to remember in my own life, something I need to grow in, something I need maturation in. So I’m right there with you.

Don’t give up. Please don’t give up. It’s not worth it.

Don’t ever give up.

Ben Rector Has It Right. I Just Wanna Look More Like Love.

One of my favorite Ben Rector songs is off his new album Brand New. The song is called “More Like Love.”

It ends like this:

I find the farther that I climb
There’s always another line
Of mountain tops
It’s never going to stop
And the more of anything I do
The thing that always ends up true
Is getting what I want
Will never be enough

So I just wanna look more like love
I just wanna look more like love
This whole world is spinning crazy
I can’t quite keep up
It’s the one thing around here
That we don’t have quite enough of
So I just wanna look a little more
Like love

It’s a beautifully-arranged song, with piano mixing well with strings in the background and Ben’s fantastic voice. But the songwriting is the best here. It’s penned with a heartfelt honesty and vulnerability that’s beginning to populate modern music, and I love that, as (all seven of) you who read this blog regularly will know.

I read Titus this morning as I ate my sausage and egg sandwich before showering and heading to work. One of the themes of Titus is “good works” – that phrase itself or a slight variation is mentioned five times in the text of the letter:

  1. “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works…” (2:7)
  2. “…our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (2:14)
  3. “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work…” (3:1)
  4. “…I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works…” (3:8)
  5. “And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.” (3:14)

Pondering the emphasis on “good works” made me think of my life and the good works that I’m doing. Or am I doing any good works? What does “good works” look like? What’s the basis for my good works?

Sometimes I feel like our “good works” often become our ability to not do bad things. And I don’t think that’s the point of pursuing obedience, of pursuing Christ. Pursuing good works is about intentionally setting our mind to doing good things for other people, to honor God, to serve the world.

And that’s where Ben Rector’s song becomes a good tentpole for our aim. What does love look like?

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

This kind of attitude is at the base of every good work. Against love, there is no law. Pursuing loving others is the highest of callings, and it’s the calling we have as Christians.

It’s being patient and kind with one another. It’s pushing aside pride and boastfulness. It’s putting others first, rejoicing at what is true, bearing, believing, hoping, enduring. It’s echoing Christ’s love of us towards others.

If we pursue those things, we’ll start to look a little more like love.