A few years ago, one of my beloved daughters in the Lord described what she saw in how I conduct myself – especially in times of trial. (I hope she can still see this trait in me all these years later.
She said, “You just keep moving along. You never stop. You never let it get to you.” And then she described me lumbering along with my typical older guy gait. There was, at the time, a little disappointment in her attitude that I didn’t freak out under pressure – and to be sure, if you minister like we try to do: gently, yet frankly and honestly, there WILL be pressure at times.
Reality isn’t very much respected in these times of untruth and spiritually dangerous “wokeness” foolishness. So, yes…she’s watched us weather some crises and the derision of others. Oh well, our King experienced that (and still does) and so did all the Bible greats we read about in the Word.
“Therefore, in all things He (speaking of our Jesus) had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” (Hebrews 2:17-18)
Having said all that, this piece isn’t about the unpleasant things we may have experienced in 30 plus years of ministry. There will ALWAYS be those seasons; but, we can truthfully testify that the beautiful and joyous and awe-inspiring things we witness FAR our number and outweigh those negative ones.
The question for me is this: “Which of those will get more of my focus? Which will I let control my soul?”
I choose to not give those satanically inspired attacks much free rent in my head. I choose to worship Jesus and not that other stuff.
So, if this piece isn’t about that, why am I writing it?
Sometimes, if we try to live an intentional and observant life, we can notice things about ourselves…things the Lord has done in us or has installed in us – just as we can take note of things He has purged from our souls and is no longer a part of who we are or how we see ourselves.
We recently were visiting our family in Missouri and were enjoying our daughter, son-in-law and their two little girls. We tried to get as much time with them as possible since we live so far away.
The 7-year-old (Annalise) was in school all week so, she got our weekend and nighttime attention. The younger one, though, (Gillian - 4 years old) stayed home from day care and we were able get LOTS of time with her. Both girls are super smart, busy, high-energy and fun and have all the challenges which go with those traits. They share a lot of similarities (like being “idea machines” – good and bad ones) but are, like all siblings, different in their own ways.
It turns out that when Gillian disappears in the house and gets very quiet, she almost never is doing anything that would make us cringe. We always check because we have 3 adult children and, now, 5 granddaughters. This is what we found her doing when we looked: she was quietly and methodically assembling jigsaw puzzles.
Its her new passion! She’s like a little 4-year-old puzzle building machine – taking the pieces out of their plastic storage bags and building one. Then, doing it again…until there are 4, 5, 6, 7 puzzles all in a neat little row.
It was fascinating to watch. So I (Poppa) decided to interview this little puzzle nut about her hobby. I got down on the floor (which is how you make eye-contact with little people) and I asked her a question.
“Gillian, will you tell Poppa the secret to your puzzle building success?”
She stopped her all-important work and, without hesitation, she said, “I NEVER give up.”
Now, I am used to all my other granddaughters (except #5 who is just 6 months old and not talking yet) being pretty self-aware and able to easily communicate what is in their heads. But Gillian’s frank and simple statement touched me deeply.
You know, sometimes people will say or do things which resonate so DEEPLY within you. This simple thing she said plucked that heart string deep inside my soul.
I told her, “Gillian, Poppa thinks that is an awesome way to be and I hope you are like that the rest of your life about the good things you do.” Then, she smiled and went back to work. Puzzles are VERY important to her.
What do you do when this happens? I’ve learned to take it as some sort of hint from the Lord. That morning, He took an opportunity to say, “Mike, I’m showing you something about what YOU value in life.”
I went back to the sofa and spent some time listening to the Lord to see what He wanted me to see. One of my favorite verses is this one:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)
I love it because we tend to take credit for the good things does in us – while, all along, it is HE who does it. Or, more often, we don’t even see anything has changed inside us. This passage reminds us that God is ALWAYS up to something.
It seems that DEEP inside my soul the Lord has installed perseverance and a LOVE for the idea. AND! When I see it in others something joyous POPS inside me. That’s why little Gillian’s answer touched me so deeply.
If that trait is nurtured in her…to do good things…it can ripen someday into a form of spiritual and moral courage that seems to be waning in this fallen world and, sadly, even in the Church Jesus established.
Christians all around us give up when the going gets rough. The consumer mentality the world has used to pollute the purity of the Church has cause so many of us to adopt Christian ideas and principles as add-ons…for when they are comfortable and seem to be advantageous. Then, when hard times come…so many seem to so easily abandon them.
That’s when the prayer for others, contentment in Christ, compassion, restorative work in relationships, and love ceases and is replaced with things which bring satan so much delight: outright spiritual assassinations, division, gossip, abandonment of commitments, foul language and attitudes, vicious personal attacks and so on.
How this must grieve our King.
Meanwhile, these words are still true:
“We are workers together with God. So we beg you: Don't let the grace that you received from God be for nothing. God says, ‘I heard you at the right time, and I gave you help on the day of salvation.’ I tell you that the ‘right time’ is now. The ‘day of salvation’ is now. We don't want people to find anything wrong with our work. So we do nothing that will be a problem to others. But in every way we show that we are servants of God. WE NEVER GIVE UP, even though we face troubles, difficulties, and problems of every kind. We are beaten and thrown into prison. People get upset at us and fight against us. We work hard, and sometimes we get no sleep or food. We show that we are God's servants by our pure lives, by our understanding, by our patience, and by our kindness. We show it by the Holy Spirit, by genuine love, by speaking the truth, and by depending on God's power. This right way of living has prepared us to defend ourselves against every kind of attack. Some people honor us, but others shame us. Some people say good things about us, but others say bad things. Some people say we are liars, but we speak the truth. To some people we are not known, but we are well known. We seem to be dying, but look! We continue to live. We are punished, but we are not killed. We have much sadness, but we are always rejoicing. We are poor, but we are making many people rich in faith. We have nothing, but really we have everything.” (2 Corinthians 6:1-10 – ERV)
Look at that beautiful phrase in Verse 4: “We never give up.”
That idea is all over the Bible if you look for it and the Old Testament and New Testament greats (as a Christian you, too, have the grace to be one of those) all persevered.
Do a search in your favorite version of the Bible. Look for “persevere”, “persevering” or “persevered”. You’ll see it. Read some of your favorite stories about Joseph, Moses, Paul…pick someone… and you’ll see them doing this. They will all do it the same way: trusting in an invisible God rather than themselves or the visible stuff coming against them in the world.
“The Scriptures say, ‘I believed, so I spoke.’ Our faith is like that too. We believe, and so we speak. God raised the Lord Jesus from death, and we know that he will also raise us with Jesus. God will bring us together with you, and we will stand before him. All these things are for you. And so the grace of God is being given to more and more people. This will bring more and more thanks to God for his glory. That is why WE NEVER GIVE UP. Our physical body is becoming older and weaker, but our spirit inside us is made new every day. We have small troubles for a while now, but these troubles are helping us gain an eternal glory. That eternal glory is much greater than our troubles. So we think about what we cannot see, not what we see. What we see lasts only a short time, and what we cannot see will last forever.” (2 Corinthians 4:13-18 - ERV)
As I lay on the floor in that living room, watching my granddaughter build puzzles, I observed how she did it. She never started with the corners and edge pieces (which, frankly, drove us all a little crazy.)
She never seemed to be distracted by what she could not see. She had faith that the puzzle pieces fit together. She KNEW each part was designed to fit SOMEWHERE. So, she looked for the connections she could not yet see.
That looks like 2 Corinthians 4:18 to me.
What can we take away from this article?
For me, the value of observing those around us and seeking God as to why He arranged it is SO important. We tend to careen through life and I think we miss a lot of God-hints that way. Let’s stop wasting those holy encounters.
It is important that we pay attention to what touches our hearts in joyous ways or grieves us deeply. It is equally important to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal if it’s our flesh responding to worldly things – or, is it God who is at work inside us? If it’s the first, we can repent and invite Him to fix that in our souls; if it’s the second we can rejoice with Him that we see some more of the work He has done inside us.
Finally, it is also SO CRUCIAL that we…each one of us as an act of devotion to God and a pronouncement of our on-going worship of Him…pledge to God to NEVER GIVE UP. We need to hear ourselves proclaim it. Others NEED to see us walk it out.
One of my spiritual daughters saw that in me one day and mentioned it. “You just keep moving along. You never stop. You never let it get to you.” I wasn’t living that way to be on display so someone else would notice and admire me (or even criticize me) for it. It is simply how I have come to be in this manner.
Our brothers and sisters and, yes, even the lost around us need to see perseverance in us in this throw-away world in which we find ourselves. God is being marketed by the world as a non-essential add-on Who can be abandoned when things get hard. Then, the devil uses the world against us by making our lives hard. This is so we might choose the spiritual and moral cowardice he installed inside us to hurt us and the cause of Christ instead of glorifying his enemy, our Father in Heaven.
The people in our lives NEED to see us never give up because God and our faith in Him is THAT important to us.
Let’s be like little Gillian, the puzzle assembling machine. Then, we can know this about ourselves: “I NEVER give up.”
May these words bring you peace and blessings.
Pastor Mike McInerney
Mike McInerney Ministries, Inc.
© April 1, 2022
(for use with permission)