You’re Never a Failure Until You Quit
Philippians 3:7-14; 2 Timothy 4:6-8
Some of you reading this month’s study may feel you’ve failed God and there’s little hope for you. Your usefulness to God is “over” and you’re just hanging in there, wondering if by some miracle God might use you again.
Or you may have already quit. You decided the Christian life is such a struggle it’s just not worth the effort. Or you believe it’s worth it, but you’re just not “up to it.” You may be disappointed with God over unanswered (as yet) prayer. You may have gotten hurt in a church squabble. So you’ve thought, “This is the end of the line for me. I'm gonna be a bench-warmer from now on out. I’ll just ‘hold on till Jesus comes.’”
If this is your mindset—or describes someone you know—there is encouraging news from the Word of God for you, even if you’re on the sidelines today.
In this study, we’re going to “Dig Deeper” into what it takes to stay on course and finish strong, even if you feel you’ve failed God—or you’ve “quit” because you feel He has failed you.
Suppose you’re running a 100-yard dash. You’re in the starting blocks. The gun fires and you start running. You’re 10 yards ahead of everybody else. You’re three feet from the goal! But you quit. I don’t care how far ahead you are…you just lost the race.
You’re always a failure if you quit. You’re never a failure until you quit. But failure is not final, and you can change course. You can begin your race again. This is what God wants for you—to be a finisher, not a quitter.
We’re going to look at the life of the apostle Paul in our study—for if anyone ever got off to a shaky start, it was Paul. But once the gun fired, he began running and never looked back.
He used every set-back as actually a springboard to advance in the race! As we examine that today, you’ll see that you don’t have to hang by a thread or be a quitter. But finishing doesn’t come easy. Ask any marathon runner. And the Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint.
1. With pen and Bible in hand, turn to the book of Philippians, chapter 3. Fill in some key words in the passage below, beginning with verse 7.
Thank God the apostle Paul never stopped running. Under house arrest in Rome, he wrote:
7But what things were gain to me, these I have _______________ _______ for Christ. 8Yet indeed I also count ______ things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have _______________ the loss of all things…that I may _______ Christ 9 and be found _____ Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is ______________ ___________ in ___________, the righteousness which is _________ God by faith; 10 that I may __________ ______ and the power of His resurrection, and the ________________ of His ______________, being conformed to His death,… 12 _____ as though I had _____________ attained, either were _____________ perfected [mature]; but I follow after, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do ______ __________ ______________ to have apprehended; but one thing I do, _________________ those things which are ____________ and reaching _____________ to those things which are _____________, 14 I press toward the _________ for the prize of the ____________ call of God in Christ Jesus.
Try to visualize Paul as he penned these words. His body bore the marks of three shipwrecks! He was scarred from195 stripes laid on his back over the years—a man who had a prison record. Yet he’s still running the race saying, “I haven’t reached the goal; I'm not mature yet, but I’m not going to quit. I follow after.” (v. 12)
The Greek word translated “follow after” (other translations, “press on”) means “relentlessly pursue.” The idea is determination. His eye is on the goal. He’s straining every nerve, every sinew. He doesn’t have a take-it-or-leave-it attitude. He’s not quitting; he’s pressing on.
2. James, the half-brother of Our Lord and head of the Church in Jerusalem, adds another facet to this mosaic in our lives of hardship, testing and difficulty. Turn to James chapter one.
“Knowing this, that the testing of your faith [does what?] _____________ ____________.” James 1:3
You see, the “testing of your faith”—those irritations, imponderables, trials, tears, tribulations—are not allowed into our lives just to see how tough we are. God is not sitting on His throne musing, “I wonder how much he/she can bear? Hit them with another lightning bolt! Can they take it?”
Yet some people—consciously or unconsciously—see God that way.
If that is your picture of God, that’s closer to the character of a pagan idol, not the God of the Bible Who loves you, treasures you, sent His Son to die for you, and wants to see you grow and mature. But watch the next verse in James 1.
“But let patience have her ____________ work, that you may be ___________ [mature] and entire, wanting nothing.” (v. 4)
3. What does God want in your life? Turn to Ephesians 4:13 for the answer.
“…till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the _______________ of the ______ of God, to a _______________[mature] ______, to the measure of the stature of the ______________ of Christ;”
A CLOSER LOOK AT…“PERFECT”—DO I HAVE TO BE PERFECT?
Each time you see the word “perfect” in these verses, it does not mean “perfect” like we understand in today’s English. The correct idea is “mature.” It means to be a grown-up…to lay aside childishness and be mature in Christ.
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4. Turn to 2 Corinthians 4:8. Fill in some important missing words. Remember—we are looking at what God is after in the life of every believer, and He wants you to finish strong. This is what the apostle Paul said about himself:
“We are ______________ on _________ _______, yet not distressed; we are __________________, but not in ____________; We are __________________, but not __________________; cast _________, but not ________________; Always bearing about in the body the ____________ of the Lord Jesus, that the ________ also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.”
Paul says, “Look, there’s trouble on every side.” Remember, Paul bore the scars of 195 lashes. We are not going to get out of this world unscathed. We are not better than the apostle Paul.
If It Was Good Enough for Paul…
Being saved does not mean immunity from pain and suffering. You know this, but we need to be continually reminded. Every Christian must understand—we’re not exempt. Tribulation is part of life whether you’re saved or lost. It’s a false gospel that says if we come to Christ there’ll be no adversity, no misfortune, no persecution or pain.
We say, “Lord, I don’t want to suffer. Lord, I don’t want any problems. I want it to be all honey and no bees. I want to sail through life in perfect ease.” If you do, you’ll never be a mature Christian. And if you’re not mature, you’re not like the Lord Jesus Christ.
A CLOSER LOOK AT “BEING LIKE JESUS”
Someone once observed that God loves His Son the Lord Jesus so much that He wanted to have an entire race of people who would be like His Son—have the same character as His Son, act like His Son, love others like His Son. God wants you to be a full-grown Christian. He wants you to be mature. There is no maturity without patience and no patience without trials—without suffering.
God wants to bring you to the fullness of Christ. And the way He does that is to allow trials and tribulations, growing you up and making you mature. Tribulation will bring about patience. As you grow in patience, you’ll be growing in maturity.
5. Turn to Romans 5. Read vv. 1-4. Paul is speaking from his own experience:
a. “And not only so, but we glory in _______________ also: knowing that _________________ worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope…” Romans 5:3-4
The word patience in v. 3 is the word for endurance or perseverance. As a matter of fact, one translation says, “Brings about perseverance.” Another says, “Produces endurance,” that courageous endurance that enables us to keep on going without quitting.
The word tribulation literally means “pressure.” It refers to the crushing of grapes in the wine press and olives in the oil press. God is looking for the oil and the wine of Christian character. Therefore, God allows tribulation.
It takes pressure to make something beautiful out of a life. We need to see the conflicts all of us face not as obstacles but opportunities. A diamond is a lump of coal that stayed under pressure.
b. No one ever says, “Oh this is such fun! Tra-la, tra-la, Tribulation!” Notice Paul didn’t say he was having fun. What word did he use (v. 3)? “…but we _______________ in tribulation.”
c. To “glory in” does not mean to have a good time. If you read Romans 5:3-4 in various translations, you see it can mean to rejoice, exult, triumph, boast, have confidence even in the midst of, have joy, even continue to shout our praise. Why do you think Paul would do this, and why would we? _____________________________________________________
6. Turn now to Galatians 5:22-23
“But the _________ of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, _______________, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”
“Long-suffering” is really the word “patience.” If you have not developed the fruit of the Spirit, if you don’t have patience in life, I can guarantee you are a failure. Not will be. You already are. Without patience, you will not complete your race.
Tribulation is here to teach us patience if we will submit to its work and not rebel. Then, if you will allow it—and not quit—it will do its work. Patience enables you to stay in the race and endure. You will be a finisher, not a quitter.
William Barclay describes this kind of endurance and patience this way:
It is not the patience that can sit down and bow its head and let things descend upon it and passively endure until the storm has passed. It is the spirit that can bear things not simply with resignation, but with blazing hope. It is not the spirit that sits statically enduring in one place, but the spirit that bears things, because it knows that these things are leading to a goal of glory. It is not patience that grimly waits for the end, but patience which radiantly hopes for the dawn.
7. I wish I could tell you there’s an easy way, a lazy way, to escape this, but there is none.
What did Jesus say plainly in John 16:33?
“In the world you shall have _____________________: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
You can resign, throw in the towel and give up. But don’t give way to discouragement and despondency. As a Christian, you’re going to suffer. There’s going to be tribulation that’s going to work patience and endurance in your heart and in your life.
How Not to Quit
8. In our despair, what are we saved by? Turn to Romans 8:24.
Paul says, “We are saved by ________.”
In a dark world of despair, there shines the bright star of hope from an empty tomb. Like Easter, it turns every hurt into a hallelujah, every tear to a pearl, every midnight to a sunrise, and every Calvary to a resurrection. Thank God there is hope. It is faith in the future tense.
Precious friend, if you’re experiencing tribulation, stay true to God. Don’t quit. Endure. Winston Churchill reminds us that a bulldog’s nose is pointed backward so he can continue to breathe while he still holds on. That’s what I want you to do. You’re not a failure until you quit.
9. If you’re on the verge of quitting, before you give way to discouragement and despondency, depend upon the Lord Jesus Christ. Ask for wisdom. Rather than instantly
asking, “Lord, take it away,” instead ask, “Lord, give me wisdom. What is it, God, that I’m supposed to learn in this situation?”
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given.” James 1:5
What does the next verse (James 1:6) tell us about asking for wisdom—how must we ask? ____
If God brings things into your life to mature you, pray, “Lord, teach me to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” Ask God to give you wisdom to pass the test so He won’t have to keep giving it. He’s not going to flunk you out. He’s going to re-enroll you! He’s going to keep on giving the test.
The fruit of that will be maturity and patience, from which will come the strength to finish your race.
10. Let’s come full circle, back to where we began, the apostle Paul and his word to the Philippians in chapter 3. Paul says in v. 12 “I follow after.” Or “I press on.”
When Paul said “press on,” he was a battered old apostle. Writing under house arrest, near the end of his ministry, he was still running. Turn to Hebrews 12:1-2
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of _______________, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us _____ with _____________ the ______ that is set before us, Looking unto ___________, the Author and _____________ of our faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2a
Joni Eareckson Tada is running from her wheelchair. Billy Graham, in his 90s, is faithfully running his race. Anyone can. But you dare not quit.
You can run even from a sick bed. Surrounding you, a great cloud of witnesses testify that they ran their race and never quit.
11. Turn to 2 Timothy 4:8 for our last verse in today’s study. This is what you have to look forward to if you don’t quit:
“Henceforth there is laid up for me a ___________ of ___________________, which the _________, the righteous judge, shall _______ ____ at that day: and ______ to ____ _______, but unto ______ them also that love his appearing.”
How many who remain faithful will receive the crown? _______
When Paul penned these words, it would not be long before the Lord Jesus would be giving Paul the victor’s crown. Verse 8 is almost the last word Paul ever wrote.
We do not know how long we will have from this moment forward to run our race on this earth. We know not how soon we might be called up to stand before our Lord. Every day events around us remind us of the brevity of life.
Fight the good fight. Stay in your race. Finish your course. Keep the faith. It will be worth it all when you see Jesus and He hands you the victor’s crown.