I have learned, in my forty-plus years of serving God and living in His kingdom, that there are recurring pressures and voices that try to convince me to wave the white flag. That is to be expected, because the values of God’s kingdom are not the values of this world. Before receiving Jesus into my life, I lived in the kingdom of darkness, just like every human ever born. I was part of the world that surrounds us—a world that is often contrary to God’s way of thinking. But when I put my faith in Jesus, He transferred me into His kingdom. Colossians 1:13-14 says, “For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins” (NLT).
Now, all of us who have put our faith in Jesus “live and move and have our being” in Jesus and His kingdom (Acts 17:28). For the rest of our lives, we are to grow in understanding about how that kingdom operates, and we are to learn how to align our lives—our spirit, soul, body, finances, relationships, and everything else—with the principles of the kingdom of God.
There are certain inviolable truths that cause this kingdom to operate, and we must live in harmony with them. When we try to live God’s way, we often face opposition. Sometimes it’s internal, in our hearts, minds, and bodies. Other times it is external, from people and circumstances around us. We face a recurring pressure to give up on the Christian life; to give up on living by faith; to give up on giving; to give up on being His disciples; to give up on being the light of the world and the salt of the earth; to give up on forgiveness; to give up on renewing our minds; to give up on having the right heart attitudes; to give up on believing in the Lord; to give up on believing in His Word; to give up on our dedication to the Lord. It’s the temptation to wave the white flag; to surrender to apathy. To go back to how we used to live. To negotiate a ceasefire with the enemy at the cost of our freedom in Christ and our obedience to Him.
I would say the majority of us—probably all of us— have experienced this lure of apathy. It’s not every day, and it’s not all day long. But it’s recurring; it comes back. And sometimes it feels relentless and overpowering. Every time I’ve stood up to the pressure and pushed back on those thoughts and temptations, they have gone away, and I came out on the other side. I usually think, Oh, I beat that for good. It’s never coming back. I’m never going to feel that way again. But sooner or later, the voices come around again, trying to get me, my family or our church to wave the white flag.
The resistance isn’t just in our relationship to God. Often it’s in relationship to other people or to the abundant life God wants us to experience. Maybe you have had thoughts like this:
- You might as well give up on going to college.
- You might as well give up on putting your kids in a better school.
- You might as well give up on finding peace of mind.
- You might as well give up on meeting the right person.
- You might as well give up on ever being forgiven or ever forgiving.
- You might as well give up on achieving financial freedom.
Or maybe it’s even more personal than that.
- I fail at everything I try. I’ll never be enough.
- Our family never amounts to anything. Nothing good could happen to me or my family.
- My life is a waste. My life should just end.
Your fight might be mustering the grit to control your temper, changing the words you speak, taking care of yourself physically, building a business, saving your marriage, praying for a child who is not following God, restoring a broken relationship with a friend, beating an addiction, or any other number of things. Maybe you’ve tried once, twice, or many times to win the fight, but you still struggle from time to time. It can be a bit discouraging when you feel like you beat something and then, a few months or years later, it comes back. I’ve had people tell me maybe they aren’t spiritual enough or disciplined enough. They feel condemned because they find themselves wrestling with something they thought they beat long before. But just because you have to fight something for a few rounds doesn’t mean you are less of a winner. I think it makes you more of a winner.
In my experience, it does get easier. Each time you beat something, the victory tends to come a little quicker. The gaps between struggles are a bit longer. The most important thing is to not give up. If you do take some steps backward, don’t give in to the temptation to give up completely. Pick yourself up and get back in the fight.
I’ve thought about quitting. Many times. Let me help you with something, though. There’s nothing wrong with thinking about quitting, as long as you don’t quit! I’ve wanted to give up. I’ve wished I could give up. There have been times I thought I would be forced to quit, whether I wanted to or not. But I never quit. Do you know why? Because I’m not a quitter. Do you know why I’m not a quitter? Because I am a child of God and I have grit. And grit don’t quit. It really is that simple. We serve God, and God wins. We know how the Bible ends: with Jesus conquering the world, the flesh, and the devil. That’s the side we are on. We might have weak moments, but that will only cause us to pray always, to seek God humbly, and to guard our faith diligently. We won’t turn coward. We won’t lose our courage. We won’t be slothful in our duty. We won’t grow weary in hearts or souls. Let’s hold onto that conviction throughout our lives. No matter what comes, no matter what emotions or thoughts assault us, we can stand firm.
Fighting against apathy in our daily lives requires grit. Grit to continue praying even when you feel like giving up, grit to listen to who God says you are in the face of what other people are saying about you and the lies you believe about yourself, and grit to seek out friends who will be there for you in every battle you face. Putting on the full armor of God takes grit. Do you have it?
Adapted excerpt from “Burn the White Flag: How to Fight for an Abundant Life” by Pastor Charles Nieman (Fedd Books, August 2019). Used with permission from the publisher.
Charles Nieman is an author, speaker and the co-founder and senior pastor of Abundant Living Faith Center in El Paso,Texas.
Nieman founded Abundant Living Faith Center with his late wife, Rochelle Nieman. Their humble beginnings began in 1977 when they began teaching in a home Bible study with 12 people. Since then, their congregation has grown to about 40,000 people and is a multi-campus church in El Paso, Texas. The non-denominational church is a Hillsong Family Church and was rated as the No. 31 fastest-growing church and No. 41 in size in 2008 by Outreach Magazine.
Nieman currently resides in El Paso and his two children, Shannon and Jared, are also pastors at Abundant Living Faith Center. He has four grandchildren. For more information, please visit www.charlesnieman.com or www.alfc.com.