In recent weeks you may have seen that CMS is running a campaign called ‘Jesus never gives up. Neither should we.’
It’s a phrase I’ve been pondering as I’ve reflected on the Gospels during this Easter season.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, we get a glimpse of what it means to say “Jesus never gives up”.
In Matthew 26 Jesus says: “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.”
He prays for the cup to be removed but also finds it in himself to pray to the Father, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Just a few verses earlier in Matthew 26, Peter appeared to show similar levels of commitment when he said ‘Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.’ But shortly after this bold statement of intent, he denies Jesus three times.
It’s often only when we face trials and suffering that we realise the true extent of our human frailty.
But God never gave up on Peter.
We see Jesus reinstate him in John 21, asking him three times, Do you love me?
Jesus didn’t remove Peter’s strong personality. Instead, he transformed and perfected it. So much so that Peter is able to write later in 1 Peter: “though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
Whilst counter-intuitive, there are a number of scriptures that speak of the benefits of suffering like this, such as James 1:3 or Romans 5:3-5.
One definition of ‘suffering’ is when there’s a gap between our heart’s desires and our circumstances. And whilst Jesus doesn’t cause these things to happen, he does seem to allow them to strengthen our character and to bring hope in order that we might never give up.
Ann-Marie Wilson, one of CMS’s mission partners, recently shared with staff: “Prepare for setbacks – things not in your plan might still be good for you.” And after her life and faith journey, I suggest she knows better than most.
I’ve had a little taste of this myself in recent weeks when I discovered that I had a medical issue with my heart that needs surgery.
I was very fortunate that the doctor picked it up early. But it was a nasty shock, with the inevitable accompanying feelings of anxiety.
Given my personality, one of the hardest parts for me is finding the patience to wait for the next medical step.
But we know because of Gethsemane, in dying for our sins, rising again and giving us the Holy Spirit that Jesus will never leave us whatever we go through.
God didn’t give up on Peter through his struggles. And he won’t ever give up on any of us either.
In his wonderful book, Surprised by Hope, Tom Wright takes it a step further when he says, “People who believe in the resurrection, in God, making a whole new world in which everything will be set right at last, are unstoppably motivated to work for that new world in the present.”
This is the reason CMS is compelled to never give up.
I pray that my heart surgery fixes my physical condition. And I pray also that during this Easter season, the Holy Spirit will bring us all the spiritual surgery we need to inwardly digest the truth of the Scriptures.
So with our eyes fixed on Jesus, we never give up too.
Jesus, never gives up, and neither should we.
Have a very Happy Easter from all of us at CMS.