During the sixteenth century, there was a man who served as a page at the court of King Edward VI by the name of Thomas Hawkes. Thomas was a man noted for his gentle manners, his winsome personality, and for his firm faithfulness to Christ. However, when Edward died, the face of religion changed, and those who still held to the reformed faith began to be in great danger. Thomas was imprisoned for his faith. During his months of imprisonment, various means were used to make Thomas recant his faith, but all proved useless. His constant answer to all was steadfastly, "I am no changeling." Having received the death sentence, he was led to the place of execution where he was to be burned at the stake. After being tied to the stake, his sentence of condemnation was read aloud and Thomas was allowed to address the crowd. Before the torch lit the bundles of wood beneath him, Lord Rich gave him one final chance to recant his faith and to spare himself the awful sentence of death upon him. Thomas then spoke these stirring words, "I have come too far to change now." The flames were quickly kindled around him and his life was soon over.
The depth of a man’s faith is not measured by the height of his achievements, but rather by what it takes to make him quit! Few understood that principle like the Apostle Paul. Throughout his journeys, there were problems that dwarfed him, pressures that distracted him, persecutions that discouraged him, and people that damaged him. But, in Philippians 3:14, he reveals a perspective that drove him, "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." The word "press" implies to stay in pursuit amidst stress and difficulty. That is encouraging because it tells me, in his humanity, there must have been days when Paul’s flesh whispered to him, "just surrender, throw in the towel, and send up the white flag because it’s not worth it anymore." It was in such moments the world discovered he possessed a faith that would not flinch, faint, or falter. That explains how Daniel kept praying publicly despite an intimidating death threat, and how the three Hebrew children refused to bow while the furnace was growing hotter, and how Stephen kept preaching while the council was gathering stones. They had come too far to change! How do you stand amidst trying circumstances with firm resolve to never give in and to never give up?
You must walk in a decided loyalty. As the project of rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem was nearing its completion, Nehemiah faced both threats and taunts by his enemies. He responded in Nehemiah 6, "I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it...Should such a man as I flee?...I will not go in." The expressions "I cannot" and "I will not" reveal the heart of a man who was living with his mind made up. He could not back up, and he could not back down! During the ancient battles at sea, approaching ships would often lower their flags to avoid being spotted by the enemies. However, sailors who were both patriotic and courageous requested that their colors be nailed to the mast. There comes a marked moment in every Christian’s life where it must be clearly displayed which side you are on. Joshua challenged the people, "Choose you this day whom ye will serve..." Elijah asked the people of Israel, "How long halt ye between two opinions?" Jesus said to the Pharisees, "He that is not with Me is against Me..." These were clarion calls to make a decision of total surrender. A man who will not surrender his person will ultimately surrender his position. You cannot draw a line in the sand and then pray for rain!
You must worship with a devoted love. During the final year of Jesus’ ministry, which would come to be known as the year of His opposition, Jesus gave His disciples the chance to quit when he asked in John 6:67, "Will ye also go away?" Peter answered insightfully, "...Lord, to whom shall we go?..." There was nowhere else to go and no one else in whom to turn but Jesus. In world history, when Cortez had discovered the new world, he fell in love with the new world to such a degree that he burned all of his ships to remove the possibility of going back to the old world. Anytime we possess multiple options in our spiritual life, we will choose other alternatives at the first hint of failure or frustration. Many of Jesus’ disciples "went back, and walked no more with Him" because they loved miracles more than the Master. Demas turned back because he loved possessions more than the Provider. I have observed that many people will quit serving the Lord over the most trivial of issues. But, the same issues can occur in their secular job and they will continue going to the same job every day. Do you wonder why that is so? The answer is simple: some people will do for money what they won’t do for love!
You must work for a desirable legacy. In Luke 22, Jesus not only predicted Peter’s sifting and scandal, but also his seasoning. Jesus prayed in verse 32 that Peter would not quit, but rather get back on his feet and "strengthen thy brethren." While quitting may impact our lives, it injures the lives of others. In life, there are many moments that you can go so far that it becomes dangerous to others to go back. Once a pilot has gone so far down the runway, to go back could mean disaster. For a mother to try and go back after the baby is halfway out of her womb would mean death because the womb can no longer support life. Noah quit for a season and raised a perverted son. Abraham quit for a season and nations still war today. David quit for a season and his family never recovered. A credible testimony takes years to build but only five seconds to lose. Former Wheaton College president V. Raymond Edman said it best, "It is always too soon to quit."
When I was a child, my grandmother enjoyed cooking for our army of a family. However, I could only see food that looked undesirable when I glanced across the table. But, I knew if I could endure just a little of that food, the good stuff was coming afterward. Perhaps you have endured a lot in life, but you are now too close to home to call it quits. Every day you make the choice to either get down to business or go out of business. As for me, "I have come too far to change now!"
Your Most Proud Pastor,
© 2009 Alan Stewart