Hope … When You Want to Give Up

David CerulloBy David Cerullo10 Minutes

I love this passage where the apostle Paul assured the Galatian believers of a great promise from God…

“At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up” (Galatians 6:9 NLT).

Like nearly all of the Lord’s promises, conditions are attached here. First, Paul is assuming the believers have sown seeds – otherwise, it would be futile to expect a “harvest of blessing.”

But Paul also mentions another important condition of this wonderful promise: “IF we don’t give up.” That phrase got me asking myself…

Why would someone who’s been given a promise from God be tempted to give up before their breakthrough comes?

I’ve concluded that the answer to that question is fairly simple: People tend to grow impatient when they must wait for their harvest to come.

That’s why Hebrews 6:12 makes the surprising statement that the promises in God’s Word can’t be activated by faith alone. Instead, the Lord’s promises must be received by “faith and PATIENCE.” Later in the same chapter, we’re told that the key to this kind of patience is supernatural HOPE, which is “an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil” (v. 19).

Let me share a few stories in the Bible about people who could have been tempted to give up when they didn’t see God’s promises come to pass right away. It’s fascinating that in each of these stories, the breakthrough was delayed until people reached the number SEVEN – God’s perfect number.

Marching Around Jericho

If you put yourself in the place of the Israelites, the Lord’s instructions for defeating the city of Jericho must have seemed ludicrous. It was a walled city, after all, heavily fortified against any enemy attacks. Instead of supplying His people with visible weapons of warfare for such a battle, He told them victory would come as they marched around the city for seven days and blew rams’ horns.

Each day for the first six days, the Israelites were to march around the city once. Then on the seventh day, they were to march around the city seven times. Instead of merely blowing horns on the seventh day, the Lord added a new instruction: “All the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat” (Joshua 6:5).

Picture how silly you might have felt on the first day of marching around Jericho and blowing your ram’s horn. The citizens of Jericho no doubt climbed up on the city wall to watch this strange battle strategy. “These Israelites must be crazy!” they probably said to themselves.

Then day two…three…four… five…and six came. More marching. More blowing of the horns.

But nothing happened! With each new day, the Israelites must have been increasingly tempted to simply give up.

Perhaps you can relate to this feeling. You’ve tried to follow God’s instructions, yet nothing seems to be changing.

However, remember the promise of Galatians 6:9. The breakthrough will come “at just the right time” (NLT) or “in due season” (NKJV) – if you don’t quit too soon.

Fortunately, the Israelites persevered, following the Lord’s directions all the way through day seven. The result was a resounding victory, but it only came because they patiently waited and obeyed.

An Outpouring of Rain

Because of the prayers of Elijah, Israel had experienced a three-and-a-half-year drought. But after defeating the false prophets of Baal, this man of God turned to praying for rain to be restored to the land.

As Elijah bowed to the ground and prayed, he commissioned his servant to go look up into the sky for signs of rain. The servant returned and said with certainty, “There is nothing” (1 Kings 18:43).

My friend, let those chilling words sink in for a moment. Maybe you’ve been praying for something for quite a while now. But when you look at your circumstances, you feel just like Elijah’s servant. Despite your persistent prayers, the result has been the same: “There is nothing.”

Yet Elijah wasn’t about to give up. He told his servant to go again…and again…and again. In fact, seven times he instructed his servant, “Go again” (v. 43).

Finally, the servant saw something different when he looked for rain the seventh time – but it certainly didn’t seem very promising. “There is a cloud, as small as a man’s hand, rising out of the sea!” he told Elijah (v. 44).

Today, perhaps you see “nothing” in answer to your prayers. Or maybe the only sign of encouragement seems quite insignificant, “as small as a man’s hand.” Will you continue to trust God, nevertheless?

Elijah did. When he heard about the tiny cloud forming in the sky, he got excited! Despite that small beginning, he was confident that a huge outpouring of rain was right around the corner.

However, notice once again that the breakthrough didn’t come on the servant’s first, second, third, fourth, fifth, or even sixth glance at the sky. Things only changed because he kept looking – persisting until the seventh time!

The Seventh Dip in the Jordan

The final story is found in 2 Kings 5:1-14 (NLT). Although Naaman was considered a great man and a mighty warrior, he had a problem that seemed humanly insurmountable: He suffered from leprosy.

But when Naaman heard about the prophet Elisha, he became hopeful that God would heal him. So he and a huge entourage made the journey from Syria to Israel and waited at the door of Elisha’s house.

The renowned general expected a quick prayer from the prophet and an instantaneous healing, but instead Elisha just sent him an annoying message: “Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of your leprosy” (v. 10).

There’s that number again: “seven times.” Rather than being grateful for this word of instruction from the prophet, Naaman thought it was both crazy and insulting. As a result, “Naaman became angry and stalked away” (v. 11).

Thankfully, Naaman’s officers reasoned with him, pointing out that Elisha’s directions were relatively simple to perform. Finally, the general was persuaded to humble himself and try this unusual plan.

Can you picture the scene? Surrounded by his entourage from Syria, Naaman must have felt pretty silly when he dipped in the water and nothing happened. Once…twice…all the way to six times dipping in the muddy Jordan River, and there was absolutely no change in his condition.

I can’t help wondering if Naaman was tempted to give up at that point. Yet look what happened after he finished dipping in the river the full seven times: “His skin became as healthy as the skin of a young child, and he was healed” (v. 14).

What Number Are You On?

Dear friend, I hope you see how encouraging these three stories are. Six times you may have already circled your Jericho…prayed for rain to end your drought…or dipped in your Jordan River. But who knows? Perhaps the next time is when everything will change.

As Jesus said in Matthew 7:7 (NLT), you must keep on asking, seeking, and knocking until your breakthrough comes. I’m convinced it’s closer than you think!

God bless you,

David Sig

David Cerullo