Proverbs 4:25 Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.
“That’s it, I quit. I’m done, count me out. It’s over, I’m finished with the ministry,” The minister wanted to say out loud, but couldn’t because the question awaiting him, just hung there, like a church bell ready to be rung. “What are you going to do once you shut it down?” came the question to his mind. “Oh, something or other,” he said. Therein is the dilemma. What are you going to do with the calling upon your life? The Apostle Peter had to answer this question after the Lord had been crucified. Not sure what was coming next, Peter went back to fishing. John 21:3a Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.” Not a bad idea. Just shut it down, and go fishing. Then what?
I believe I am describing what a lot of men and women who are in church ministry contend with, as some have tried to quit and get out of ministerial responsibility, serving the poor who will always be with us, and enduring the sometimes laboriousness of church life. These worn-out ministers find themselves in a confused and wearisome situation while having deep inner questions to answer that are running at lightning speed through their minds. “What next? How do I turn off the conviction of my heart concerning the calling of God? What would I do, and if I find something to do, how do I go about it? Will God support my decision?” Rom. 7:24a Oh, what a miserable person I am! I feel miserable for staying and damned for quitting. What do I do with these thoughts? “Help me, Lord,” becomes the constant prayer of desperation.
Jeremiah found himself in a similar situation. He had become disheartened with prophesying what God had put in his heart because the result of saying what God had spoken was constant persecution against himself. He was lowered into the bottom of a well for being forthright. Jer. 38:6a So the officials took Jeremiah from his cell and lowered him by ropes into an empty cistern in the prison yard. He was feeling the pressure of being whipped, then bound with stocks. Jer. 20:2 So he arrested Jeremiah the prophet and had him whipped and put in stocks at the Benjamin Gate of the LORD’s Temple. The suffering that Jeremiah went through because of the calling that had been placed upon his life at birth, had become burdensome to live with.
Jeremiah wanted to quit the whole thing but ended up saying, he had an inner compelling desire to speak because God’s word burned in his bones. Jer. 20:9 But if I say, “I will not mention His word or speak anymore in His name,” His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. He admits, “Yes, indeed I cannot hold back the anointed unction of God’s living word.” The word of the Lord lives and moves, for it will do what God says the word will do. Isa. 55:11 So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
Some may sense the assignment God has given them to be too hard to bear, and like Jonah, they want to quit the assignment they have been given. As Jonah did, they run away as far as possible from God. Not a good plan or even possible since God is everywhere. Jonah wanted out of the responsibility of the ministry assignment he was to bring to Nineveh. However, after he had reluctantly agreed to go to Nineveh and prophecy what he was supposed to proclaim, again Jonah wants to quit, but this time, on his own life. Jonah 4:3 Now, LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live. We can end up tired of everything churchy and ministerial if we are not close to the heart of God. We can find ourselves – put out, burned out, and fed up with what we perceive to be unthankful people and the toil of ministry work. Becoming bitter rather than better, we end up on the slag-heap of washed-up ministers gasping for a breath of holy air.
Elijah, with God’s clear directions, had pulled off one of the greatest feats on Mount Carmel by calling down fire from heaven to consume everything on the altar and consume the altar itself. One would think Elijah had it all together and possessed an arsenal of ministerial weapons at his disposal. Yet, after his incredible victory over the four hundred priests of Baal, when threatened by Jezebel, he runs away wanting to give up and die. 1Kings 19:4 Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”
We need God at all times, especially when we want to give up. The Lord has the answers, and He will continue to give them to us if we ask by faith. James 1:5 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. If we are going to give up, then let us quit believing the enemy of our soul who lies all the time. If we are going to quit, then let us quit doubting God and doubting His love for us.
Father, in Jesus name, Help us ask you for help when we feel overwhelmed and want to shut down. Lord, fix our hearts with grace and your courage, so we can prevail when the desire to give up is the strongest. Prov. 4:25 Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. May God’s face shine on all the ministers who are sowing God’s love into our lives. We look to Jesus who did not quit while on His way to the cross to die for us all. Amen!