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Never Give Up!
April 29, 2020By Ed Wrather

Never Give Up

04.26.20

4th Drive-in Service during the Pandemic

Fairview Baptist Church, Elk City, Oklahoma

By Ed Wrather 

Kristin Hopkins can be thankful that an unknown man stopped along a highway in Colorado to take some photos and somehow spotted her wrecked car. The man apparently thought that whoever was inside the vehicle was dead, reported it to the local Sheriff’s Office and left. 

Kristin, a 43-year-old mother, was still clinging to life after a horrific accident. For whatever reason, her car flew off the roadway for about 120 feet and then rolled another 200 feet into a clump of trees. The crash alone should have killed her, but she survived for five days without food or water.  

Kristin somehow near the end of her ordeal found the strength to push a red and white umbrella through a small opening. She had written on the umbrella, “Six days, no food, no water; please help me; need a doctor.”  

Kristin did survive although both of her feet were amputated. One of the emergency responders, firefighter Jim Cravener, said: “She really had a strong will to survive.”  

Life can be challenging to say the least! Most of us will not have to face a challenge as horrific as Kristin Hopkins faced. However, we will all face challenges of one form or another in life, to one degree or another. Many of us have faced difficult health issues, others have suffered the death of a loved one, others like Kristin have faced the challenge of recovering from severe accidents. 

Then there are financial challenges, job challenges, and multitudes of other challenges that we humans may suddenly encounter. And now, we have the challenge of coping with, dealing with this invisible virus COVID-19 that has suddenly come upon us.  

Kristin Hopkins has given us an example of what to do when faced with an extreme life challenge. The example she gives is this: DON’T GIVE UP! Keep on living, keep on surviving, keep on breathing, until help arrives.  

God gives us in Isaiah 41:10, a great promise. God says, “Fear not…” Why should we “Fear not?” Because God says, “I am with you….” If that is not enough God affirms that we should “fear not” because, “I am your God.” But knowing how weak we are God goes even further and says, “I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”  

God would say to you who are struggling, who face overwhelming difficulties in life, He is saying to you through Isaiah 41:10 this one thing, DON’T GIVE UP! 

We all face challenges in life, some more than others. Robert "Choc" Thornton is one of those people. Choc has had a few injuries during his career. At the age of 33-years, he has already been injured from 367 falls. During his career, he has had all of his ribs broken, lost several teeth, nine times his collar bone has been shattered, and he has experienced torn ligaments and tendons. 

What kind of job does Thornton have? He is a National Hunt jockey. According to Wikipedia, National Hunt Racing "is the official name given to the sport of horse racing in the United Kingdom, France and Ireland in which the horses are required to jump over obstacles called hurdles or fences."  

Because of his injuries, Thornton has temporarily had to stop racing 42 times. Thornton commented on his injuries by saying, "I haven't thought about giving up, and the day I do will be the day I retire. You can't ride with thoughts like that in your head." 

If there were a hall of fame for the toughest people who ever lived, Choc Thornton ought to be in there somewhere. Because Choc has proven his toughness. I think that the apostle Paul ought to be near the top of the list, and at the very top of the list should be Jesus Christ. 

The apostle Paul endured being stoned, whipped, shipwrecked, snakebitten, imprisoned, and more; but he never gave up. Jesus endured the ultimate in physical punishment with a Roman scourging, the crown of thorns, carrying of his cross, and finally, execution on a Roman cross. 

Jesus endured it all even though He could have called legions of angels to come to His aid. Jesus endured it to the end. He endured it until He could cry out from the cross "It is finished." Jesus not only bore the physical pain, but he also bore the sins of all people past, present, and future to become the "once for all" sacrifice (Hebrews 7:26-27).

It is possible to endure great physical pain and emotional torment without giving up. It has been done before. In addition to those already mentioned, we are given the roll call of the heroes of the faith in Hebrews chapter 11. Those men and women of God remained faithful to the end. They had their hearts and minds set on being faithful; they were not giving up. 

Jesus gives us instruction about how to keep from giving up in Luke 18, "Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart (give up - NIV)." Why do we want to pray when we are thinking of giving up? Because Jesus can help us. We are told this in Hebrews 2:18 NKJV, "For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted."  

As the Amplified puts Hebrew 2:18 Jesus is able to help us because He runs to the cry of those who are being tempted and tested and tried and are exposed to suffering Jesus "is able" to help you when you are thinking of giving up. He will "run" to your "cry" for help. However, we need to remember the instruction of Jesus in Luke 18. We must remember to ask for His help, and not give up on asking for His help. 

Let us live life confidently knowing that whatever we may face, whatever comes our way, we can be faithful to the end. Jesus will give us all that we need (Romans 8:32) so that there will never be a need for us to give up. 

The situation that we are in with the COVID-19 virus is a difficult one. It is invisible, and no one knows who will become ill with it next. But we can survive this uncertainty, we can survive the financially difficult situation that many are facing. 

Many have survived, endured far more difficult situations. Phillip Coon is one of those situations. He passed away in 2014,but he survived the WWII Bataan Death March of April 1942 in the Philippines. 75,000 men who surrendered to the Japanese were forced to march 60 miles through the jungle to prison camps. 21,000 died, only 54,000 survived the punishing march. Coon says that if he slowed down, or looked behind, or stopped, a soldier with a sharp stick would jab him in his side. 

Coon said that he could hear the screams of men behind him who could not keep up or had fallen that were either bayoneted or shot. After reaching the prison camp, he was forced to work in a copper mine and lost 55lbs during the three years of being a POW weighing only 90lbs when he was freed. 

How did Phillip Coon survive those horrific conditions? Coon says it was “Because of his faith and because he knew people back home were praying for him.” Coon was a Native American and Creek Nation Principal Chief George Tiger said this about Coon, “He certainly had a tremendous amount of faith.”  

The things that some people have endured are, I think, almost beyond belief for those of us who have lived our lives even in this pandemic in relative safety and some degree of comfort. We hear the stories of people who have endured persecution for their faith. We hear the stories of those who have endured harsh captivity during war. We hear the stories of those who have endured severe mistreatment even during peacetime. 

Do we really understand, comprehend, what these people have gone through and that many are going through? I am amazed at how God has given so many the strength to endure horrific things and situations, even for years. But I know that I do not really understand, do not really perceive the true level of suffering that these people have suffered.  

Psalm 112:6-8 could have been words penned by Phillip Coon.

The Psalmist writes: Surely he will never be shaken; the righteous will be in everlasting remembrance. He will not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. His heart is established; He will not be afraid, until he sees his desire upon his enemies. 

Phillip and others that went through the horrific Bataan Death March surely received “evil tidings.” Those “evil tidings” kept on coming for three years. How was Phillip able to continue on? Reportedly he had a “tremendous amount of faith.” He was a man of prayer and he could feel the prayers of many lifting him up, sustaining him.  

Through the apostle Paul, God gives us instructions for dealing with the “evil tidings” and suffering we may encounter in life. Prayer is of vital importance, our own prayers and the prayers of others. Paul, I think, would say to believers suffering today what he said to Timothy, “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”  

The Psalmist would add that the believer should not be afraid, being steadfast and trusting in the Lord while waiting for God’s deliverance to come. No matter what “evil tidings” may come our way let us soldier on! 

Life always seems to have another surprise waiting for us around the corner. This pandemic is just one more of them. Jenna Krehbiel was enjoying the Shrine Circus that had come to Salina, Kansas when she visited the ladies’ restroom and had a surprise she will never forget! Jenna says: "I went in to use the bathroom, and a lady came in to get her daughter out and said there was a tiger loose. I didn't know it was in the bathroom, and I walked in the door, which closed right after I had walked in. I saw the tiger; it was at most two feet in front of me, and I turned around calmly and walked back toward the door. Someone opened the door and said, ‘Get out’. You don't expect to go in a bathroom door, have it shut behind you and see a tiger walking toward you. Looking back, it was a scary ordeal... My daughter wanted to know if it (the tiger) had washed its hands. That was her only concern.” 

The tiger had escaped during the circus and had entered an open bathroom door. Security was able to move people out and barricaded the door. But Jenna entered a door at the other end of the restroom. Chris Bird, manager of the center hosting the circus said, "Once she saw the tiger, I'm sure she knew to go the other way. Overall, it was a scary, surreal moment. I am glad no one was hurt or injured.”  

You never really know what life will bring your way. We are told in James 4:13 NKJV, "Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”  

One thing we do know about tomorrow is that it may not turn out exactly as we plan.I have always liked a statement made by Tom Hanks’ character in the movie Castaway written by William Broyles, Jr."So now I know what I have to do. I have to keep breathing. And tomorrow the sun will rise, and who knows what the tide will bring in.”  

Sometimes, life sends a tiger into our path, and sometimes, life sends what we need to escape from a desperate situation. Whatever happens, we need to keep on breathing, keep on living for the Lord.Whatever life sends your way you have a choice as to how you will react. Jenna Krehbiel could have collapsed in shock and became a tiger’s lunch; instead she did what she knew to do and left the place of danger. 

God calls upon us to do the same when possible, as is pointed out in 1 Corinthians 10:13 NKJV, "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” When there is a God honoring way of escape, take it! 

In life, we may, however, have situations thrust upon us that provide no immediate way of escape and must be met head on with all of the resources that we have available to us. Samson faced one of those situations when "…a young lion came roaring against him.” There was no way of escape except through the lion. The resources of Samson included, "the Spirit of the Lord” which "came mightily upon him.”  

We may believe that we are totally inadequate to meet the roaring lions and tigers of life that come upon us, and we are totally inadequate. However, we have the same resource that Samson had; we have the Holy Spirit living within us if we know Jesus as our Savior. "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you (1 Corinthians 3:16)?” 

Whatever life brings your way this day, or tomorrow, or during this pandemic as a child of God you are not alone. Rise up in the power of God and meet the challenge of life, because you can surely overcome whatever it may be! 

At the end of December 2008 there were 11.1 million people that were unemployed in the United States. The last I heard on Friday our current unemployment situation is about two and a half times higher with 26 million unemployed.Back in 2008, Stu Schweitzer a global markets strategist said, "People say they know how bad the economy is, but they don’t know how it feels to have the reality hit home." And the economy and the situation is far worse now than in 2008 especially in the oil patch. 

How do you continue to have hope and faith when the reality of this economic disaster hits your own home? How do you continue on in what may appear to be impossible circumstances? How do you keep from just giving up? 

Researchers in Illinois and Maryland have found that people with strong religious faith are less likely to suffer clinical depression. They found strong religious faith had an even greater impact on reducing hopelessness, which typically accompanies and can cause depression. 

Jeremiah relayed a message from God stating in vivid terms much the same thing. If you are without hope and clinically depressed you will be as Jeremiah puts it in Jeremiah 17 "like a shrub in the desert." Even when good comes you will not recognize it, and you will "inhabit the parched places in the wilderness." But Jeremiah says, if you trust in the Lord and the Lord is your hope, you will instead be like "a tree planted by the waters." Even when the bad times, the "drought" comes, those trusting in the Lord will not be "anxious." 

This passage in Jeremiah reminds me of Psalm 1 where the Psalmist says:

Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,

And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.

And from this, we see how we can increase our faith and our hope even during the most difficult of times. 

From where does eternal life come? From the living water of our God as Jesus says to the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:10, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” 

In Revelation 22 John sees this vision: "And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb."  

The waters Jeremiah and the Psalmist are referring to are the waters of life flowing from God. To increase our faith and hope we must put down our roots deep into the things of God growing ever closer to Him. 

In 1 Kings 17 there is a severe drought that Elijah has proclaimed and God has brought upon the land because of the wickedness of king Ahab and Jezebel. Because the drought and the famine became so severe God sent the prophet Elijah to the house of the widow at Zarephath. When Elijah asks the widow for food we read this in 1 Kings 17:12-14,  12 So she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.”

13 And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son. 14 For thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth.’” And the flour was not used up and the jar of oil did not run dry. 

The United States creates more garbage than any other country in the world.  We are a throwaway society.  Disposable seems to always be better than the reusable. It wasn’t always that way. During the depression years and through much of the war years that followed things were different in the United States.  During those years not very much of anything was thrown away because everything was needed to survive.  Everything was used down to the last drop, down to the last tiny bit.  

During WW II tires were very hard to find because of use of the material in the war effort.  Neighbors would sometimes share tires with each other in order to have one vehicle they could use.  If someone in the family was ill, having a vehicle that had tires became very important. Because of that, my Dad hoarded old tires for years after the war.  

Here in the 21st century, I believe we give up too easily. 

ØWe give up too early. 

ØWe give up before it’s down to the last drop. 

ØWe give up before we are down to our last dollar.  

We would do well to remember Elijah and widow of Zarephath.  God gave them the food they needed as long as it was needed.  

We should remember the example of our Lord at the feeding of the five thousand and of the four thousand. Only a very little food and it was enough for only a few people. But our Lord blessed the food and it was multiplied into a provision for the thousands with baskets of food left over. 

Before we give up. Before we bail out. Let us give God an opportunity to work that miracle in our lives. Let us thank God for all that we have and are.  Ask Him to sustain us.  

ØWhen we think we can’t make it another day, let us live one more and see what God will do. 

ØWhen we’ve gone our last mile, let us walk one more.  

As we do, we will see the hand of God upon our lives sustaining us each day as we trust Him to provide. 

Never, ever, give up!! 

 

 


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