Stretching Forward – And Not Giving It Away!

One of the first Oz expressions we heard on originally coming to the great country of Australia was ‘He (or ‘She’) has given it away.’ We soon learned that the ‘somebody’ had given up on something, usually something important.
Sadly it’s still a common happening, even among Christians and also worldwide.
Conversely, another saying that has been going up recently is Winston Churchill’s famous short speech to a graduation class. Coming to the podium, the great old man solemnly looked over the student body. A long speech, full of wisdom and challenge was expected but instead Churchill simply said, ‘Never give in, never give in.’ And then, with emphasis, in his unique attention-grabbing tone, added: ‘Never, never, never, never, never… in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in.
And what profound wisdom and challenge there still is in those words after 70 years!
Giving up too soon
Once, an errand of mercy late one evening found us searching for a particular destination on a very dark and stormy night. After driving up a dusty, unlit country road for some time, we were convinced we were in an old Hammer-type 60s movie and on the wrong road and so turned back.
After wasting precious time trying other roads, we returned to that first road, kept going on it and …guess what!…the place we were looking for proved to be just round the next corner from where we had first turned back!
The question arises…How many times do most of us miss out in life because we give up all too soon?
How often do we miss a great opportunity to achieve, to do something new, to strike a bargain, to exercise our talents and giftedness, to help someone in need, to honour our faith, to accomplish a desire or goal, to fulfil a promise, to further our destiny, to…whatever. Probably more than we care to admit.
Pushing forward
The Olympics are ended but still news items are circulating worldwide, particularly about successful Christian athletes and of course the recent paraplegic Olympics.
Personally we delight to learn of Christians who have pushed themselves to reach their goal, their destiny of winning through. I’m particularly impressed when we read of those who haven’t given up, haven’t given it away but have overcome adversity and crossed whatever finishing line they were inspired to reach.
We particularly delight to use the achievements of runner Eric Liddell as a challenge when preaching. We’ve always admired that great missionary to China, who was known as ‘the Flying Scotsman’ after the record breaking locomotive, and was highlighted in Chariots of Fire.
When still a young boy, he became very ill one time. Only his mother’s nursing devotion brought him through and he recovered, only to be extremely stiff in his legs. A well-meaning lady commented that he’d never run again. Little did she know of what Eric Liddell would later in life refer to as ‘the power within.’

One scene in Chariots of Fire shows Liddell competing in a certain race but being knocked aside. In reality it was ‘A Triangular Contest’ between Scotland, England and Ireland in July 1923. The depiction of him falling to the ground several strides into the race is accurate though. After merely hesitating, he got up and pursued his opponents, already 20 yards ahead. Incredibly he caught the leaders shortly before the finish line, collapsing after crossing the tape.
To onlookers it had seemed absolutely impossible Eric could catch up, never mind win. But he did, against all odds. One of his teammates rushed to his side, suggesting brandy to refresh the semiconscious Liddell. With his wry humour, Eric murmured, ‘No thanks, Jimmy, just a strong cup of tea.’
Eric Liddell believed strongly in one important thing in following Christ. He termed this never-give-it- away principle ‘the complete surrender of his will to God.’ It was a pathway he refused to deviate from all his life, no matter what. Closing on finishing lines, he would stretch forward in his determination never to lose, only ever to win.
Jesus’ declaration
In Luke 11:9-10, Jesus spoke strongly about not giving up: ‘Ask and you’ll get; Seek and you’ll find; Knock and the door will open.’ The verb tense indicates to go on asking, seeking and knocking. Someone, years ago, blocked people from fulfilling this direction and achieving in life through wrongly teaching that it’s enough to ask God only once.
Sounds spiritual – after all, God isn’t deaf. But we‘re human and need to persevere, go on asking, seeking and knocking to see our prayers answered otherwise we can easily give up and miss out. Does a child only ask once for something, especially coming up to a birthday or Christmas? Not likely! Even the most patient child subtly drops reminders.
God has an incredible father-heart, loving us to climb up on his knee (as it were) in our prayer time and knock on his heart’s door and ask away. In his wisdom he may not always grant or immediately grant every request. We learn to ask according to his will. He loves to bless us. After all, we’re his kids, spiritually born into his family though Christ.
Jesus’ own example
Despite every hindrance thrown at him by Satan, jealous religious leaders, misunderstanding listeners and doubtful disciples, Jesus persevered and ran his race to fulfil his destiny. He overcame every obstacle including death to become our Saviour.
We continue to live in a very uncertain world…and there’s talk about things getting blacker. But security, peace and a purpose in life can be found in Jesus Christ!
Christianity is about not giving up. God didn’t (and doesn’t) give up on us. If we’re already into something that we shouldn’t give up – then let’s neither give it away nor give up! Let’s be like Paul and press – stretching forward on (Phi.3: 12-14).

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