Before You Quit

With permission, I have reposted an excellent reminder by our friend Jim Martin about quitting:

Consider what we begin:

  • A marriage begins with a wedding.
  • A student begins an academic program.
  • A homeowner begins a do-it-yourself project remodeling the family’s kitchen.
  • A person begins a blog.
  • A church member takes on and begins a project for the congregation. She begins.

Many people begin. Fewer finish.

This past weekend, our family and some friends gathered in the Lloyd Noble Arena at the University of Oklahoma to support our daughter Jamie as she received her Master of Social Work degree after several hard years of study and work. As you might imagine, I was a very proud father.

I was especially proud that she had finished.

Years ago, I received a Doctor of Ministry degree from Harding Graduate School of Theology. Shortly after graduation, Ken Dye, a longtime friend, said to me:

“You finished! A lot of people start things, but you finished!”

I especially appreciated this because I once came very close to dropping out of college as an undergraduate at the University of North Texas.

I was a first semester junior and was very discouraged. I was struggling in several of my classes. One day, I decided to quit. I cut my classes that day and went to Dallas in search of another direction. I first went to an electronics school and talked with them. Then I went to a school that trained radio announcers. Finally, I went to the Dallas Police Department.

At the police department, I talked with a person about the application process. Then at the end of the conversation, another officer joined us. This officer was an African-American gentleman in his late 40s. He was dressed in plain clothes, a sportcoat and slacks. He sat across the table from me and smoked his pipe. At one point he said,

“Son, if you are interested in this, we will be glad to talk with you. My suggestion to you, however, would be to finish college. Don’t quit now.”

 

I didn’t, and to this day I am grateful for this person’s candor.

Before you quit anything:

1. Remember once again why you began this course of action. Remember why you started this degree program. Remember why you got married. Remember why you volunteered for this project.

2. Know that anything worth doing is probably going to be very difficult at times. In fact, there may be moments when you feel stuck. Before you quit, ask yourself, “Is this to be expected?”

3. Many people will exit once something becomes really difficult. Anything worthwhile is going to have its “but-this-is-hard” moments.

4. Seek to make progress just today. Take a step or two forward.

5. Talk with people who have a track record of persevering. Learn from them. Remember that there will be far more people who will give you reasons why you should quit.

6. Pray, thanking God for the ways you can become more Christlike even through a very difficult process.

 

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • KB

    Scot,

    Thanks for this simple word of encouragement. I’ve been tempted numerous times in the last 3 months to give up on a difficult ministry situation where I feel ill-fitted for the tasks that are before me. I’ve found myself wrestling on an almost daily basis with trusting God’s leadership in my life in bringing me to this place – despite my earnest prayers beforehand that God would plant me where I could bear fruit for his kingdom. I need this reminder that almost anything worth doing is going to be difficult at times. To leave simply because of difficulties does not seem to be the Jesus Way… Most of us long for a life of relative ease and peace, but it is hard to see how that desire coincides with participating in the kingdom of God in a broken world.

    Thanks again for these words. Keep pressing on!

  • Terri

    thanks Scot, I’m writing my dissertation and should probably read this every day!

  • http://www.godhungry.org Jim Martin

    KB, I can really identify with your words regarding your ministry situation. Discouragement is something I’ve had to deal with in several ministry situations.

    One day, I was in a conversation with a person regarding some practical implications of following Jesus. His response was, “But that’s hard!” It was almost like this person was saying “That can’t be right. That is difficult.”

    It struck me that so much about ministry in a congregation is that way. At times it is hard and even discouraging. My prayer is for grace and strength during these seasons.

  • Larry S

    KB @ #1 speaking from personal experience, it can be gloriously freeing to quit a ministry position that as you say, you feel “ill fitted for.” My hope would be that you can find honest feedback and don’t put your family in harms way: “friendly” fire (aka church people).

    In my ever so humble opinion, evangelicalism has quite a mythology around God’s leading. It gets difficult to sort things out – specially when you are in the trenches. Wrestling with something on an “almost daily basis” might be a bit of a signal.

  • http://rhymeswithplague.blogspot.com Bob Brague

    I had no idea you had ever done time in Denton.

  • http://www.godhungry.org Jim Martin

    Larry S., good point. I think one of the challenges of life is to know when one should persevere and when a change should be made. I suspect that for many of us, there have been times when either perseverance in one’s present setting was best. On the other hand, there may be times when some sort of change is best for one’s family, one’s mental or physical health, or any number of other reasons.

  • http://restoringsoul.blogspot.com Ann F-R

    These are wise words. Thank you, Scot, for sharing and Jim for writing them (and not quitting! :) ). I also agree w/ the responses to KB from Larry S – 4, and Jim M – 6. It seems to me that discerning when to cease persevering & persisting is one of the hardest things to do. Sometimes, the perseverance is due to the Holy Spirit’s empowering; sometimes it reflects our own hope for healing, reconciliation, or transformation of situations; and as Jim noted in #6, sometimes persisting can be an unhealthy response for us. I’d add, humbly because there have been times I’ve been stuck *there* and needed other believers to give me a shove, it can also reflect our own desire to “win” over what’s wrong and broken with our own strength.

  • http://www.godhungry.org Jim Martin

    Thank you Ann. I agree that sometimes discerning when to persevere and when to back away is difficult. I think this may be one reason why the community of believers is so important. Some decisions probably need to be made seeking the counsel of brothers/sisters with whom we are in genuine community instead limiting the process to what goes on inside our heads.

  • http://communityofjesus.wordpress.com/ Ted M. Gossard

    Amen. Needed words for us all!

  • http://pithlessthoughts.blogspot.com/ Steve Robinson

    Scott, I didn’t know you had a Ken Dye/Harding pedigree. I graduated from Lubbock Christian back in 1976 and “met” Ken on the internet years ago. The comments on persevering and knowing when to quit persevering hit home for me. I’ve been in several ministry situations where, looking back, I persevered too long, but it was where I was psychologically and spiritually. It took the beatings and the failures and the missed opportunities and difficult people to shape me and change me, so in a way it was a work of grace to go through those times to become who I am now…. which by the way is still imperfectly struggling with stuff. We never “arrive” we just change.

  • Brian Smith

    Do not Quit!! Perseverance is key. Hebrews 12 tells us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and to run our race!
    Coming from someone who quit because the circumstances and relationships all got too difficult. In short I took my eyes off and put them on the situation and circumstances forgetting to consider Him who endureded so much for me… Why did I not endure….but after 10 years of lifeless darkness I can see all so clearly and His grace is overwhelming me daily. But I wish I did not quit or go through the last 10 years, yes He is greater than my stupidity and the last 10 years but I should have held on to God. DO NOT QUIT, DO WHAT HE HAS TOLD YOU TO DO!


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