by Perry Stone
In Matthew 24, Christ presented a detailed list of what we call the “signs of the times,” events to occur prior to His return to earth. He said those living at the time of the end must “endure to the end to be saved (Matt. 24:13).” The word endure means “to stay under something or to undergo something and be able to bear it.” In context, Christ was speaking of enduring offenses that would come and not allowing your love to wax cold toward God and others (Matt. 24:10-13). The New Testament Christians endured severe persecution, false teachers, lived in societies where idols were the city gods and where death threats against them were common. Yet they stood their ground and refused to compromise.
In America, we have a generation of Christian who have become weak, anemic and rather toothless in their power to chew the meat of God’s Word (1 Cor. 3:2) and walk in the total commitment to Christ. At the first sign of pressure to conform to the world, the baby believers turn away from their caring Heavenly Father and begin crawling toward groups of party animals bent on corrupting their minds. Satan hides in the dark, hoping to hang a new trophy on his hell wall of fame, a showcase filled with the names of once spiritual believers who are now dead to God and alive to demons.
This generation quits too easily because they have been bred with an attitude of “when the going gets tough, just get up and walk out.” Moms and dads have gone AWOL and left home, leaving their flesh and blood for a better life with a new companion. Siblings are unfaithful, as each has their own agenda which does not often include their brothers or sisters. The youth often quit school because they are failing; they quit jobs that they cannot handle, being regularly late to work and finding it hard to function without drugs or alcohol.
It appears that Isaiah saw this day when he wrote in chapter 40:28-31, “Has thou not known? Has though not heard that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of His understanding. He giveth power to the faint and to them that have no might, He increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall; but they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength: they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint.”
The youth shall faint and fall! The Hebrew word here for “youth” is na’ar and can refer to an infant to adolescent. In the 1611 version of the Bible, the word is translated as a “boy, child, damsel or young man.” The words young men refer to youth of a more mature age. In our culture, this would be a late teen or college-aged individual. Isaiah said they shall fall, a Hebrew word called kaw-shal, meaning “to stagger and waver,” figuratively meaning to have a weakness in the knees. In this prediction, the prophet warns that the weariness the youth will experience will cause them to become weak-kneed and unable to stand as they should.
During my 34 years of ministry, I have never witnessed such a large number of youth who are depressed, despondent and carry a spirit of hopelessness. I believe there are three reasons they are giving up and quitting on God, the church, family and friends:
Battling the Spirit of Isolation
There are two types of personalities: introverts and extroverts. The first is rather quiet and prefers to be alone, tending to hold in their feelings, while the second is outgoing and enjoys being around people. They are the social butterflies. However, there is a great danger when youth (or adults) pull away from loving and caring family and friends and begin to isolate themselves. The danger of isolation is that there is more idle time in which the enemy can send darts and imaginations into the mind.
Elijah the prophet experienced this on one occasion. He challenged the false prophets of Baal to a showdown on Mount Carmel. He was outnumbered 850 to 1; however, in a 63-word prayer, he called fire from heaven down upon the sacrifice and directed the slaughter of 850 false prophets. He then went into intercessory prayer and prayed for a 42-month drought to be broken. On the seventh prayer, a cloud formed, and he jumped up and outran the horses and chariots of King Ahab to the city. Suddenly, his day of victory was ruined by the death threat of Queen Jezebel. She said she would have his head in a short time. In fear, Elijah ran 118 miles to Mount Horeb, where he sat under a juniper tree and requested to die. In 1 Kings 19:14 we read how he felt. He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord God of Hosts because the Israelites have forsaken Your covenant, thrown down Your altars, and slain Your prophets with the sword. And I, I only, am left, and they seek my life, to destroy it.” (AMP) Elijah felt isolated, and the enemy was playing with his mind! One moment he was shouting in victory and the next he was depressed and wanted to die! There were 7,000 who had not bowed to Baal, but these men were living in caves and in hiding, fearing for their lives.
What if God would have taken Elijah at the moment he requested? He would have missed a ride in a chariot of fire and could not have been one of the two witnesses in the future tribulation (Mal. 4:5; Rev. 11:1-6).
We were not created for isolation, but for interaction with others. All humans respond to love and to a true relationship built upon mutual likes. When we are in isolation, our power and authority of agreement is broken, since it takes two or three gathering in Christ’s name for Him to manifest among them and “one can chase a thousand and two can chase ten thousand (Matt. 18:20; Deut. 32:30).” It was God Who said, “It is not good that man should be alone (Gen. 2:18),” thus He created Eve. Moses by himself could not carry the burden of the people, and God transferred the burden to seventy elders (Num. 11:17). When Jesus was alone in the wilderness of Judea, the Devil came and tempted Christ during His forty days of isolation (Luke 4:2).
Solomon wrote: “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, the one will left up his fellow; but woe to him that is alone when he falls; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat; but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, who shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
Battling The Spirit of Shame
The second attack of the enemy that causes people to give up and quit on God and church is the spirit of shame. The word shame means “to be dishonored, disgraced and reproached by others.” In Psalms 55:12-14, it says, “For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; that I would have hid myself from him: But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company.”
The late, great Lester Sumrall once said, “Sin will make a fool out of you!” All sin produces some form of fruit. The fruit of sin in the life of a believer is shame. David experienced shame when his sin of adultery with another man’s wife was exposed in the eyes of the kingdom. Sampson broke his Nazarite vow, costing him the anointing, his eyesight, and daily shame, as he was mocked by the voices of his enemies in the Philistine grinding house.
Imagine being the woman in the New Testament caught in the act of adultery – meaning she was pulled from the bed and later thrown at the feet of Jesus. The shame caused by the guilt and the exposure was no doubt unbearable. Then there was Peter who boasted he would never deny the Lord and later not only denied he knew him, but cursed in the process of his denial. Even the young minister John Mark was a failure in the eyes of Paul, who sent him home during a missions journey, causing Barnabas and him to go their separate ways.
With all the guilt, shame and feelings of failure, God still knows how to solve the shame game! When David repented, Bathsheba later birthed a son who God chose to replace David as king! Samson cried out for God to remember him, and he was infused with mighty power to bring down the Philistine temple and slay more enemies in his death than in his life. The guilty and ashamed adulterous woman was forgiven by Christ and went away to never repeat the sin again. Christ restored Peter in a fish cookout at the Sea of Galilee, and on the Day of Pentecost, Peter became the voice of the church and his message led 3,000 Jews to enter the redemptive covenant of the Messiah! John Mark was sent home. However, at the conclusion of Paul’s life and ministry, he asked that John Mark be sent to him, as he was “profitable for ministry.”
In each example, the Lord handled the guilt and shame and would not allow the shame or disgrace of failure to rule the heart or mind of the guilty one. Guilt is relieved by confession of sin and repentance opens the door for God to erase the sense of shame caused by spiritual or moral failures. I love Isaiah 54:4, which says, “Fear not, for you shall not be ashamed; neither be confounded and depressed, for you shall not be put to shame. For you shall forget the shame of your youth, and you shall not remember the reproach of your widowhood any more.”
The thought continues in Isaiah 61:7, which says, “Instead of your shame, you shall have double honor, and instead of confusion, they shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double; everlasting joy shall be theirs.”
The Apostle Paul was religious but spiritually lost. He was a law-abiding Pharisee who was filled with hate toward the new sect, followers of the Man from Nazareth. Paul even consented to the death of Stephen, had believers arrested, and caused some to blaspheme under the threat of death. However, Paul understood the need to forget those things that were behind and reach for those things that are before and press toward the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Phil 4). If you do not allow the Holy Spirit to release you from shame, this emotional and spiritual burden could cause you to give up and quit!
Battling The Spirit of Disappointment
The primary word in “disappointment” is the word “appointment.” An appointment is an arrangement to meet with someone at a set time. A disappointment is an interruption in the plans you have, people you trust, or in the confidence and trust you have placed in someone. We have all experienced a crushing of our expectations. We plan, imagine what it will be like, but then things go sour. I remember growing up, my family often planned a Florida vacation. I imagined the sun, the beach and the sand. Several times we planned the vacation only to find storms where the sun didn’t shine, the waves were too big to swim in, and the wind was blowing sand in your eyes. That was a big disappointment for a child!
As we grow older, we forget that expectation is the breeding ground for miracles and answered prayer. Because of many disappointments in life, we start to minimize our expectations to guard against disappointments. If we expect nothing and get something, we are encouraged. If we expect much and get little, we are disappointed. In life, disappointments are a huge part of living on a planet where things change. At times, even ministers, churches, Christians and other we love betray a trust and we become disappointed.
Years ago, I realized the power of disappointment when a noted television minister who preached strongly against sin was caught in his own private turmoil and pit of despair. I remember hearing unchurch and unsaved men commenting, “If he can’t make it, then I can’t make it, so I am not going to even try to be a Christian.” These men were faithful viewers of the minister, and when he fell, the disappointment was so great that they allowed it to defeat them.
Years ago, someone came into Pam’s life and eventually became a close friend. She seemed to be one of those people who would be with you for a lifetime. Even little Jonathan was thrilled to be with this person who often helped babysit the little fellow when Pam and I would go on a date. Within one year, we were very disappointed and Pam’s heart was hurt by the attitude of this person and how she turned on both of us. Perhaps her motive was not pure or she just saw the “human side” of the family versus the ministry side. Disappointments will always come in life, but we must not stop trusting God, attending church and loving people just because we have been burned by a few folks during our journey to eternity. If you run away every time you are disappointed, you will be running the rest of your life. You must never allow isolation, shame and disappointment to cause you to give up. Take out the “give up” option and remain strong!
Waiting Upon The Lord
After revealing that through weariness and fainting the youth would fall, the prophet gave a solution to the struggle. He wrote, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” The Western idea of waiting is to sit down and twiddle your thumbs until the person or thing you are waiting on is made visible or arrives. The is Hebrew word for “wait” is kawvah and figuratively means “to weave threads into a garment.” Waiting is not sitting still, but weaving your prayer, your words and God’s promises into the expectations of His ability to give you strength to run and walk. Just as the eagle must renew itself during certain seasons, you, too, must renew your mind to prevent isolation from cementing you in a room of despair. If your strength depends on the joy of the Lord (Neh. 8:10), then pray for a renewal of the joy of the Lord, and take out the “give up” option!