As a youngster I was well-schooled in the virtue of perseverance. I heard over and over how Churchill told his people “Never give up.” By the way, he didn’t say that. It was actually a lot of nevers followed by “give in.” Not quite the same, but still a great exhortation. I played a lot of sports, so Vince Lombardi’s words sounded as sacrosanct as most scripture. “Winners never quit and quitters never win”, he said. And history showed that few teams or players under his charge rarely did. And for good reason; one of his other quotes was “You must be fired with enthusiasm, or you will be fired with enthusiasm.” That certainly kept not keeping up to a minimum.
In those contexts, and in the moment, those were effective words of leadership. But in the broader context, I’m not so sure. As I celebrate another birthday, I can look back and say that a lot of the best things happened because I did give up on the things that got in their way. I quit a lot. One or two of those I wish I had back. But most of my quitting cleared the road of progress to be traveled. Early on as a pastor I heard a master motivator I admired give a lecture on how you have to “Give up to go up.” The path to the top of any career calls for a lot of self-sacrifice that inevitably means you have lay some things down. And in my counseling I have told a lot of boundary-challenged folks that their “yes” mean nothing until their “no” meaning something. There is no going up without giving up. And giving up means saying no, quitting, and redirecting more than most of us are comfortable doing.
Jesus must have thought that life, particularly the life of a follower, pretty much worked that way. It is surprising how many of his admonitions called for some good giving up. The rich young ruler just couldn’t buy in when Christ said sell what you have and give to the poor. His walking away sorrowfully bore testimony to how he valued things and did not value people. Especially poor ones. And while Jesus went out of his way not to condemn the woman caught in adultery, he also told her to sin no more. In other words, give some things up. Some of Jesus’ most famous words and acts were about the surrender of will.
Sunday morning we begin a series with the title “Give Up to Go Up.” it will run for seven Sundays, with an option for a few more. We will cover a lot of ground in those weeks and pinpoint a lot of things that we are just better off giving up on. I promise you will find your story in those stories; I know I have. And together we will let God instruct us on how giving up and quitting are essential actions on the path laid out before us. I hope you will give up your Sunday mornings, and invite some friends to do the same. I’ll do my best to be relevant and authentically-relatable. Come with heart and mind open to the possibility that God just might tell you to let go of something that, ironically, has a hold on you. And as hard as it might be to go against your long-held aversion to giving up, you just might find that freedom comes from quitting the right things, at the right time, for the right reasons. I look forward to showing you how.