by Mychal Thom
“Giving up.” These two words alone can provide a very negative connotation. After all, so many messages that we hear, and rightfully so, are designed to motivate us to keep going! Often times, when we are face difficult situations and challenging decisions, we have an internal choice. We can do it, or we can give up. We can push through, or we can stop and not finish. We can give it everything we possibly have…or not, and save a little bit of our effort and energy so as not to tire ourselves. I remember fondly back to my track and field days, when my dad would stand on the final turn of the 800m race, and provide much needed encouragement to me to finish the race strong, and not give up! Many days I hear his voice in my head as I face difficult challenges on a day-to-day basis and need motivation to push through!
At Concordia Lutheran High School in Fort Wayne, we’ve been on a journey for the last few years of trying to discover the plans God has for us in the future. We’ve looked at land, we’ve looked at upgrading facilities, we’ve tried to determine future enrollment goals, and we’ve looked at the cost of all of these things! When such challenges face us, often time passions run high! Do you ever experience that in your ministry? Do people share with you their thoughts, opinions, joys, and concerns, and sometimes in ways that are uplifting, and sometimes not? If I’m honest, when the community clearly demonstrates its “human nature,” it can be hard for me to dig deep and push through. I truly believe that the roles we serve are difficult ones, but also are so very important! The schools we serve are vital to our communities and will only become more important as we seek to serve those around us, and as the needs around us grow!
There is certainly much to be said for perseverance and, what has now become a common buzzword, “grit.” To stay the course and hang in there is a much-needed message for our young people today as well. Often times I remark to our students to give their best effort, and keep striving for the finish line, no matter how much time we have left in the school year. Countless motivational tactics are used in our society to help keep people moving forward toward a goal, some certainly more effective than others, but the underlying tune to all of these is, Don’t Give Up!
In some recent study of the crucifixion and resurrection account, I found an interesting contrast. I came across this verse from Matthew 27:50, “And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.” What? Jesus gave up? Yes…absolutely. You see, when we give up it is a sign of failure, but his “giving up” was a tremendous sign of victory! He WILLINGLY gave up his spirit and subjected himself to suffering and death to pay the ultimate price for our sin. From John 10:17, “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.”
He gave it up, only to take it up again! As I let that sink into my heart and my head, I get overwhelmed. He didn’t have to. He still had the power to get out of this suffering, but he WILLINGLY gave up his spirit and died. He did it for you. He did it for me. That is the definition of love as we read in John 15:13: “Greater love has no one that this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
I urge you not to give up in whatever strivings you have in life and in your school. Maybe there is a building project on the table, an enrollment challenge ahead, or you’re just dealing with the day-to-day life of having several teenagers, their parents and families, and the adults in your building trying to coexist! Know that there is a community of like-minded folks that lift you up in prayer and can appreciate the challenges of leading a Lutheran Christian school. Ultimately, my prayer is that you always know the gift of salvation has been won for you because He gave up everything for you.
God’s blessings as you live with this tremendous gift close to your heart!