Nevertheless, We Continue

Stephan Beitze

What can we do when we’re discouraged? What a marathon runner with no legs, and the Apostle Paul, can teach us.

It’s not uncommon to get extremely disappointed or discouraged in the service of the Lord. You might be hearing from others how well their church or ministry is doing, and think, “I wish I could say the same.”

But we need to be aware that everyone has problems, trials, and challenges. Not everything we attempt will go smoothly. We may have lost church members. Perhaps others have left us. Maybe there isn’t even a good church nearby, where the Word of God is proclaimed clearly. Maybe we have family problems. There may be problems at work, or with our health. We could even have lost someone very dear to us. It could also be the case that we were treated unfairly. Perhaps we have encountered opposition for the sake of the Gospel. Perhaps our friends, or even our brothers and sisters in the faith, have disappointed us. We may have gone through a time of adversity, or a ministry we devoted our energy to hasn’t yielded the fruit we’d hoped for. We might be feeling like all our efforts were in vain. Maybe we’re fed up and disappointed with it all.

Is there a solution? How can we even go on?

There are numerous well-known marathons worldwide, and millions run every year. Completion rates vary across courses, but overall, about 20% of those who begin a race don’t finish. The New York City Marathon is the largest in the world. The records for the 42 km (26.2 miles) course are 2:05:06 (men’s, set in 2011) and 2:22:31 (women’s, set in 2003). And yet one impressive time stands out: 4 days, 17 hours, and 21 minutes. This was the completion time of Bob Wieland (, who had lost both his legs serving in the Vietnam War. He “walked” the entire route on his hands. Not only that, but also, he took nearly four years to cross the entire United States to raise funds for veterans.

Why is it that 20% of healthy, able-bodied runners don’t finish the marathons they begin, while this man persevered to the end despite all odds? How can you run when you don’t even have legs?

Consider the life of a great missionary: the Apostle Paul (Acts 20:17-24). He was on his way to Jerusalem, even though the Holy Spirit had forewarned him that he would be taken prisoner there. He could have decided to remain in Europe, to continue in his blessed church-planting ministry. Why would he expose himself to danger unnecessarily? But he said, “I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself,” and kept going.

Someone who doesn’t know the Apostle Paul’s life might say, “Talk is cheap, but he doesn’t know a thing about my problems. It’s easy enough to say you’ll keep going anyway.”

But the reality is quite different (cf. Acts 20:19). In 2 Corinthians 11:23ff., the Apostle lists his trials: flogged five times by the Jews, whipped three times, stoned once, and shipwrecked three times (up to that point). He was in constant danger during his travels through deserts, across seas, over rivers, and on lonely roads. He was in danger among Jews and Gentiles alike, and even among false brethren. He suffered all sorts of anxieties and hardships, in addition to his constant concern for his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and churches, etc.

It could be said that symbolically, his legs had long since been cut out from under him. But he still said, “I do not account my life of any value,” and set out for Jerusalem.

In Jerusalem, Paul was nearly lynched, taken prisoner, and suffered slander. But he stood firm. He was imprisoned under Felix in Caesarea for two years. He could have invested those wasted years so fruitfully in church planting! Felix was convinced of Paul’s innocence, but expected the Apostle to bribe him in exchange for freedom. Paul could have asked the local church to “solve” the problem, since it would ultimately benefit the Church and the spread of the Gospel. But he was unwilling to do that and didn’t compromise. Afterwards, he had an interview with Festus, who could have released him. But knowing that God wanted him in Rome, Paul appealed to Caesar. However, Paul was well aware of what this appeal to Caesar would entail: it meant remaining in captivity until the emperor was willing to receive him.

Now the disastrous crossing to Rome followed, including Paul’s fourth shipwreck, and a snakebite to boot. When he was near Rome, brothers and sisters from the church there met and encouraged him (Acts 28:15). He seemed to really need it. Afterwards, he remained chained to a Roman soldier for two years (v. 16). If we were to put ourselves in his place, we could say, “What an injustice! How unreasonable.” He was imprisoned for four years while innocent (Acts 28:30). Again, so much wasted time that could have been used for church planting and missionary travel! But Paul didn’t despair. He didn’t allow himself to feel that everything was useless. No, he used this time to continue preaching the Gospel (Acts 28:31), and wrote the wonderful letters to the Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon.

After this, he was released for a while. He could have told himself, “I’ve suffered and worked enough! Now it’s time to enjoy a well-deserved retirement.” But instead, he went back to work: organizing help for various churches, and writing more books. A short time later, he was imprisoned again. This was the final imprisonment that led to his martyrdom.

Surely the great Apostle Paul had many brothers and sisters to lovingly care for him in prison. After all, his ministry had been so blessed, and so many people had learned the Gospel from him. He must have received many visits from people who brought him the things he needed and comforted him in these difficult circumstances… But unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. Quite the opposite: Demas left him because he loved the world more (2 Tim 4:10). Apparently, a certain Alexander testified against him instead of in his defense (v. 14). This great and blessed man of God was alone. His best friends and coworkers were away or sick like Trophimus (v. 20). The only one who remained with him was Luke (v. 11). Perhaps people were beginning to question Paul’s actions. Perhaps Paul’s repeated imprisonments were being seen as God’s judgment. In any case, he was left completely alone.

He was abandoned to the point that he couldn’t even properly shield himself from the cold. He had to ask his friend Timothy to bring his cloak. Wasn’t there a single person in Rome who could have lent him a cloak or blanket? Apparently not. These were the circumstances in which he was writing his second letter to Timothy, which was to become his final letter and legacy. He sensed that the end was near and wrote, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come” (2 Tim 4:6). He knew that he would die for the sake of Christ.

Let’s revisit the example of the marathon runner, the man without legs. In this context we could say that figuratively, Paul’s legs weren’t the only things that had been cut out from under him, but his arms as well. How could he still stand firm and keep going? What was the secret of his perseverance, courage, and stability?

I think there are three main reasons:

1. The Certainty of His Calling

“…The ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus…” (Acts 20:24). He knew that God had called him and set him in this place. The circumstances he was confronted with made no difference; he could press on.

Bearing this in mind, we need to be asking ourselves whether we are in the place God wants us to be. He may be calling you to occupy a position you don’t want to be in. Or you may be in another place of your own choosing, that God hadn’t intended for you. But when you are in the place that the Lord has shown you, you can also be assured that He will take care of everything else. Paul obeyed the call of God. He knew: “This is the place that God wants me to be, and this is where I’ll see to it that I carry out my task.”

2. The Certainty of God’s Help and Presence

Paul had God’s promise: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). He leaned on this promise until the end of his life, when he said, “But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it…” (2 Tim 4:17).

If the Apostle Paul had this assurance, then so can we. You may be feeling depressed, powerless, defeated, and feel tempted to give up on everything. Look to the Lord, the author and perfecter of our faith! Not only will you be able to keep going, but you will soar above the obstacles like an eagle, as Isaiah so beautifully wrote. You will rise up, and neither faint nor grow weary. The Lord will renew your strength, for it does not lie in us, but in Him. We want to be getting this power from Him again and again!

3. The Certainty of Being with the Lord Soon

At the end of his life, the Apostle Paul said, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom” (2 Tim 4:18). Paul’s letters are constantly sharing the certainty of the Lord’s swift coming. This gave him complete comfort. So much so that he even wrote to the Thessalonians at that time, “Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thess 4:18). He knew that all of the labor and anguish would soon be over, and then he would pass into eternity. That was his consolation. And when he wrote to the Corinthians about the Rapture, he ended by saying, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58).

He knew that he would soon be with the Lord. This comforted him, but also filled him with zeal for the Lord’s business. There was much to do, and little time left to reach so many people with the Gospel! Dear readers, that is also our certainty. Which is why we aim to continue on the path that God has laid out for us.

Midnight Call - 01/2023

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