Through the years I have witnessed some incredible sports moments. I’ll never forget Michael Jordan’s final shot as a Chicago Bull to win the 1998 NBA championship, or Michael Phelps beating Mark Spitz’s Olympic gold medal record by winning eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics. But my favorite sports moment of all time did not take place in an arena, in a stadium or on a field. It happened at the 1993 ESPYS when Coach Jim Valvano won the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. In the midst of battling cancer and nearing death, Coach Valvano remarkably delivered one of the most iconic speeches ever given. In his speech, he said a simple phrase that has been quoted and printed countless times since then:“Don’t give up! Don’t ever give up!”
The year 2020 has ushered in challenges no one expected. Between facing a global pandemic and navigating through social tension and political unrest, we are leading in times that are truly unprecedented. Many church leaders are feeling discouraged, confused and exhausted. Personally, I have had days in this season when it would have been easier to just give up. If you have felt this way, you are not alone. Let me encourage you with the words of Coach Valvano, “Don’t give up! Don’t ever give up!”
You may be thinking, “Why not give up? I’m discouraged. I’m exhausted. I’m frustrated. Why would I not give up?” The answer is simple: you have been placed by God in this very moment in history for his divine purpose. Think for a moment with me about the ministry of the prophet Jeremiah. This man faced enormous hardships, pain and suffering in his ministry. Jeremiah was called to a very dark and painful season in Israel’s history. He was given a costly message to deliver to a hostile environment; he faced opposition from his own people, national uncertainty and eventually exile. Surprisingly, through all of this, Jeremiah “didn’t give up! He never gave up!” Why? Because he knew God had called him and appointed him to that specific season in history. Listen to God’s message to Jeremiah.
Jeremiah 1:5, 9-10 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations … 9 Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”
Jeremiah understood that God had not only strategically placed him where he was, but also called him for that particular moment in history. The same is true for all of us who have been called by God. Listen, it is by no accident that you are where you are at this particular moment. God has a plan that he wants to accomplish through you, where you are, in this season. So, stay the course! Continue to preach the gospel fearlessly, continue to shepherd and love the people God has entrusted to you. Remain faithful to the One who has called you and “Don’t give up! Don’t ever give up!”
These words of encouragement come to you as a part of an initiative from the COVID-19 Task Force for church leaders to be “together for the unfinished task” during this time of uncertainty.