Monday, April 15, 2013


"Quit trying!" is the advice my father gave me the other day. After opening up about the job hunt with the church--sharing my frustrations and disappointments--those were the last words I expected him to utter. Considering how supportive he has been over the years, even when he didn't understand or even disagreed with what I was doing, I was taken aback. If you knew the faith journey he has been on these last several years, you would likely be just as shocked. When I first left for college to pursue my ministerial studies, my father, who was not a Christian at the time, was the one who supported my decision. I remember him telling me "If God's calling you to do this, you better do it!" And it was this supportive, encouraging attitude I have heard from him, until now.

It's safe to assume "Quit trying!" was not the response I was looking for. As you likely know, that's not the type of advice most parents give. They tend to be more compassionate and encouraging. They push and challenge you to keep striving in order to reach your goals. "Keep pressing on!" "Give it time!" "Don't give up!" would have seemed more apropos. But, with an outsiders perspective, my father took a different approach.

After tossing around his advice most of the night, I decided it would be best to let it sink in and sleep on it. The next morning, with a clear head and a fresh perspective, I realized he has a valid point. Now, I understand "Quit trying!" doesn't sound like the best advice, but sometimes it's exactly what we need to hear. Not only can that be the best resolution to a certain situation, but it even has some Biblical undertones.

Read Acts 16:6-10 and you might see what I'm talking about.

"Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had told them not to go into the province of Asia at that time. Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed for the province of Bithynia, but again, the Spirit of Jesus did not let them go. So, instead, they went on through Mysia to the city of Troas. That night Paul had a vision. He saw a man from Macedonia in northern Greece, pleading with him, ‘Come over here and help us.’ So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, for we could only conclude that God was calling us to preach the Good News there."

This is, in a way, identical to the situation I had found myself in. On some level this story, more than likely, resonates with you as well. You have been seeking God in everything you do. Desperately you have been trying to follow His leading. But every step forward only seems to be followed by two steps back. Whenever you step out in faith, you encounter an impasse. Inevitably, every attempt to follow God leaves you more frustrated and confused than the last.

Although they keep pressing forward, this is exactly where I imagine Paul and Silas find themselves. Take a moment and attempt, with me, to put yourself in Paul’s shoes. Having been in direct opposition to the supposed Messiah, Jesus the Christ, the last thing you planned to do was proclaim his message of forgiveness and hope. Yet, after a surprising encounter with the risen Jesus, sharing the Good News becomes not only your passion, but your way of life. The Holy Spirit has overtaken you and at the risk of life and limb, you set out on a journey to take the message of Jesus to the ends of the earth. So engulfed with this new calling, you become almost oblivious to everything around you. Determined to stop at nothing to reach the finish line, from time-to-time you seem to misread the leading of the Spirit. For this reason, all these attempts to move the Gospel forward result in the intervention of 'the spirit of Jesus.' What that means or how that worked I'm not sure. But it seems God took a different approach than he had been with Paul. The subtle hints weren't getting through to Paul so God took a more direct approach and stopped him dead in his tracks. Only then was Paul able to press forward and continue with his calling to spread the hope of Jesus.

If you, like Paul, Silas and I, are continually trying to do something or go somewhere and nothing seems to work, perhaps it's time to quit trying. Now, I want you to understand that to quit trying is not to be misconstrued with giving up. While they seem similar, there is a fine line that differentiates the two. In this case, to quit trying means you purposefully relinquish control. You set aside your dreams, your agenda and your time table. You stop trying to force things or make anything happen. You make no more spur of the moment decisions. You quit trying so God can work. You wait for Him to direct your steps. To reveal your next move. To make things happen. To bring things to fruition. All on his time table. You haven't given up because you open yourself to the possibility God has something else to show you or somewhere else to take you--that you were unable to see because you had on blinders.

On that note, I pose some questions to ask yourself. Exhausted? Tired of trying to figure out God’s will for your life? For this week? For tomorrow? For today? That's exactly where I'm at. And chances are you will find yourself there soon. My advice then is to just quit trying and give God the control He desires. It's easier said than done, I know. But it usually yields the best results.

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