Don’t You Dare Quit Now

by Kevin Cassil
February 28, 2014

I recently wrote an article entitled “Live Above the World,” about the wonderful things that God wants to do in the lives of those who love Him. I believe it really is true that we can’t even imagine the things that God wants to do for us – things we’ve never seen or heard of or even dreamed – God really does want to do those things in your life![1] So where are they?

God is absolutely able to do far more than we can ask or imagine.[2] So why do so many who call ourselves followers of God; who say we love Him; not see on a regular basis what we’ve never seen or hear about what we’ve never heard or witness what we never imagined? What is it that keeps us from truly and consistently living above this world?

Let me pause right here to clarify something. Living above the world does not mean you live an idyllic life devoid of problems or trials or difficulties. It doesn’t mean you never make mistakes. It doesn’t mean that you never wrestle with emotions – that you never face doubt or fear or discouragement. It doesn’t mean you avoid temptation. It doesn’t even mean you will never sin. Living above the world means that by placing your trust in the God who made you and made this world, you walk through all these things with Him and allow Him to lift you up and do in you and through you far more than you could ever do on your own. You place your trust in Him and watch Him give you courage and watch Him give you faith and watch Him give you joy and watch Him provide for you and deliver you and bless you in ways you never expected.

With that said, I think there are several ways to answer the question of why do we not consistently live above the world and see God do those awesome things. However, as I look honestly at my own life and as I’ve talked with others, one explanation that seems to rear its ugly head over and over again is we give up! I am convinced that one of the most prevalent reasons that we don’t rise above the world – why we don’t see God’s power displayed more in our lives, is that we quit – we stop before God’s done!

Let’s look at an example from the Bible. For me, one of the most tragic accounts in the Bible is that of King Saul, when he was waiting for Samuel, the prophet.[3] Saul had taken his army to fight the Philistines. The Philistines had assembled a huge army for this battle; so big that it terrified the men of Saul’s army. Samuel had told Saul to wait for him at Gilgal for seven days and he would seek God’s favor before Saul went to battle. So Saul waited for seven days, but Samuel didn’t show up. So Saul took matters into his own hands and offered the sacrifice to God himself. After he finished, Samuel showed up and told Saul, “You made a foolish choice! If you had waited on God, He would have allowed you and your family to be king over Israel forever. But since you quit, God will give the throne to someone else!”

If Saul had waited for Samuel, what God had in store for him was far more than he imagined. It would have been his kingdom that ruled over Israel forever. It would have been his kingdom that ushered in the Messiah. It would have been his throne that Jesus sits on in glory. Instead, all of that was lost; given to another – because he gave up. Saul, like so many of us, was focused on the enemy arrayed against him rather than the victory that awaited him. He, like many of us, focused on the clock, not on the promise. Saul was waiting for seven days, when he was supposed to wait for Samuel. He failed to recognize that waiting on God is not about time, it’s about a person – it’s not about circumstances, it’s about a relationship.

Aren’t we so much like Saul far too often? We give up before God gets here. You may have once felt like God had promised you something, but after so much time has passed by, you begin to question if continuing to wait is your best option.

You may be tempted to give up. It can happen in so many different ways. And typically, like Saul, we can quickly justify our actions. “Saul replied, ‘I saw my men scattering from me, and you didn’t arrive when you said you would, and the Philistines are at Micmash ready for battle. So I said, “The Philistines are ready to march against us at Gilgal, and I haven’t even asked for the Lord’s help!” So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering myself before you came.’”[4]

Saul’s rationale was chock full of facts and defensible arguments. His men were indeed scared out of their gourds. Samuel hadn’t arrived when Saul expected him. And then the kicker: Saul didn’t want to go into battle without God’s favor. Now surely that would justify his actions! After all, in response to all this evidence, Saul took it upon himself to do something very spiritual – he offered a sacrifice to God. Surely doing something so righteous would make up for him not doing what he had been instructed to do! Surely God will recognize that you have waited longer than is reasonable. If you wait any longer, people are going to think you are weird. People may think you are foolish. People will say you are not using common sense. Well that’s good! Because what God has for you is way beyond common. He wants you to hold out for the extraordinary.

Notice that Samuel was unsympathetic to all of Saul’s high-sounding excuses. He looked Saul squarely in the face and reminded him that what God asked him to do was to obey; to wait; to not give up. He reminded Saul that it was more important that he waited for Samuel, not that he waited seven days. It was more important for him to wait for Samuel to bless him, rather than to try to conjure the blessing on his own.

Like Saul, sometimes we quit out of fear or insecurity. You wait and wait. And the longer you wait, the louder that voice inside your head gets that questions whether what you are waiting for is really from God. Maybe, after waiting all this time, you begin to think that you must have heard wrong. After all, who are you to think that you’ve heard something special from God – or even heard anything from God? Maybe you just made it up out of your own desires.

Here is something very important I have learned. I want you to pause that recording that’s playing louder and louder in your head and recall when it was that God put that desire in your heart. I want you to remember the circumstance and the conviction you knew at that moment. Remember how you searched for God and listened for Him and He placed that assurance in your heart. Now ask yourself if you’ve ever felt God tell you to stop with that same conviction and assurance. My guess is, the answer is “no.” You see, I cannot find one single place in the Bible where God works in His children through doubt. He is not a God of doubt. He is a God of hope. If God has not told you to stop, why would you ever consider giving up on what He’s told you? That voice you hear that is causing you to doubt is not the voice of the God who loves you. It is the voice of your enemy who wants to derail you. Do not give in to fear and doubt. Hold on to the God of Hope.

There are times when we quit by simply doing something else that seems “just as good” and is far more “accessible,” especially under the circumstances. Saul looked at his circumstances and decided he would do something “holy” on his own, rather than keep waiting for Samuel. After all, he had prophesied. He’d seen Samuel offer sacrifices and call to God before. He knew the procedure. He could do it and get going before all his soldiers slinked away.

How often do we look at our circumstances and see an opening for something that looks good, that we can do on our own? It is, after all, a good thing. It’s a step up from where you are. And you can make it happen right away. To those watching, who don’t know what God set before you; it will look like you are doing a good thing. But what they don’t realize – what you know, deep in your heart – is that seemingly good thing is not the best thing. It is not the thing that God wants you to hold out for. Don’t grab the convenient. Wait for the omnipotent.

When I was a senior in high school I qualified for the district track meet in the 400. Because that event was late in the day and the meet was behind schedule, the organizers decided that rather than have the qualifiers from heats compete in a final race, they would simply take the best times from among the heats to determine who moved on to the state championship meet. I ran in my heat, which I won handily. I was well ahead of the guy behind me. When I plopped down next to my coach, after what I thought was a good race, he said, “You let up in the final stretch.” He was right. I didn’t do it consciously, but I had run hard enough to beat the guy behind me, but not as hard as I was capable of running. When they tallied up the times from all the heats, I missed going to the state championship meet by less than 1/10th of a second.

Sometimes we may still be “in the race,” but we have let up. Perhaps it is because it looks like you are ahead. Perhaps it is because you are just tired and running out of steam. Or maybe you have quit trying because you don’t believe you can win. But the fact remains: you are no longer running the race to win; you are running to get by – to just get it over with.

Throughout history, God has asked His followers to do some pretty daunting things. Sometimes what He’s asked has required a lot of faith and faith over a long period of time. It was over 25 years after He promised Abram that he and Sarai would have a child before Isaac was born. David was anointed by Samuel, but it was many years of living in the wilderness, death threats, and struggling before he finally sat on the throne over all Israel. They could have given up. They could have coasted or even quit. If they had, they would have missed out on what God had prepared for them. They didn’t quit because they recognized that God has never asked anyone to do anything that He wasn’t sure that they could do – and that includes you.

God has saved you to do good things that He has prepared for you to do.[5] What He has prepared for you is more than you’ve ever seen or heard or imagined possible in your life. What God has for you is far more wonderful than you can fathom. But if you stop; if you give up; if you give in, you will miss out on the best things He has prepared for you.  Don’t listen to the voices of doubt or fear. Walk by faith and not by sight.[6] Don’t compromise or settle for what is merely good or convenient, but is not God’s best. And don’t stop running! God has equipped you and prepared you to finish this race in His power.

Some of my favorite accounts from scripture are examples where God rescued His people when they least expected it, in ways they never anticipated, without them even lifting a finger. Take for example when He broke Peter[7] out of prision or did the same for Paul and Silas[8]. But one of my favorites is when King Hezekiah was locked up in Jerusalem, surrounded by the mighty king of Assyria. It appeared that Hezekiah was whipped and hopeless. The Assyrians pointed out, quite convincingly, that it was foolish for the people of Jerusalem to not just surrender. But Hezekiah believed it would have been foolish to give up on the very God who created the universe. He trusted God and prayed and refused to give up. That night, the angel of God went through the camp of the Assyrians and 185,000 Assyrian soldiers died! The next morning the king of Assyria just packed up and went home[9].

When Hezekiah prayed, he had no inkling what God had in store. While he prayed, he had no idea what God was doing. But because he prayed, he walked out the gates of Jerusalem to see the deliverance God had provided for him in response to his prayer. Pray and trust in God. You may just wake up one morning to discover the victory God has been preparing all along.

Hold tightly to what God has placed in your heart. Don’t let doubt or fear or compromise or fatigue or anything else keep you from the best God has for you. Stare that impossible situation in the face and trust in God. Keep praying and trusting in Him. He has not called you to something you cannot do. He has called you to more than you imagine. Your victory is closer than you know.

God doesn’t want you to just survive this world. He wants you to overcome this world! He wants you to live above this world! He wants you to change this world by His power at work in you! Do not stop trying. Do not stop praying. Do not stop believing and hoping and trusting in the marvelous name of your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the awesome power of your Holy Spirit, and the incredible, matchless love of your Heavenly Father! Your God wants you to have victory. He has designed you for victory. He has prepared you for victory. And He has prepared the victory for you! So, don’t you dare quit before you have that victory!

Copyright February 28, 2014, J. Kevin Cassil – all rights reserved

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Live Above the World

by Kevin Cassil

As I am sitting down to write this article, I am not feeling very victorious. Perhaps that is all the more reason why I need to get this written – to remind myself and you that our God loves us very much and wants wonderful things for us.

I may be familiar with Jeremiah 29:11 – “‘For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the Lord. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope.’”[1] It seems though that sometimes I have a hard time believing that. I mean really believing it.

I find there is one enemy in particular that I face in this battle to believe. It’s the bad things I have faced or seen others face or that I conjure up in my highly creative, worrisome mind. I have gone through some really tough times in my life. My mind is keenly aware of the death of family members, wounded relationships, financial upheavals, and on and on. My “natural” mind has these right at hand when contemplating what the future might hold. Where is the prosperity? It’s far too easy to imagine the harm.

Jesus even warned us that, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.”[2] The world we live in is full of trials and sorrows. So, if even Jesus is telling me that I’m going to have many trials and sorrows, how can I have hope? If Jesus gives me such a gloomy forecast, what is our adversary, the devil going to do? Where is the hope in that?

The hope is in the reminder of the rest of that verse: “But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”[3] The hope is that the story doesn’t end with the trial and the sorrow. The reminder is that, yeah, we live in a messed up world. There is sickness; there is death; there is trouble of all kinds. But there is far more to it than all this messed up world has to offer.

When Jesus was praying on the night before He gave His life for us, He prayed to His Father, “I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do.”[4] It is true that Jesus said in this world we will have trials and sorrows. We are in this world. But because of Jesus’ sacrifice – His overcoming the world – we are in this world, but we are no longer of this world. Because we are no longer of this world, our experience no longer stops with what the world has to offer. We have the hope of what our Heavenly Father has to offer!

The apostle Paul encourages us to “not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”[5] He encourages us to change the way we think – don’t think as if what the world has to offer is the only option. Don’t think that the trials and sorrows of the world are the only possible outcomes. Don’t think that what the world has to offer – the ways the things of this world work are the best that you can hope for. Our Heavenly Father has “plans to prosper you, not to harm you.” He has “plans to give you a future filled with hope.” The God that we serve is not bound by the limits of this world. He is not constrained by the everyday stuff of this world. Yeah, we may have trials and sufferings because we are in this world. But it doesn’t end there, because our God gives us hope beyond the trials and beyond the sufferings that is not of this world!

In fact, Peter wrote that if we will recognize that we belong to God and that we need him – that is humble ourselves – He, Himself, will take care of us. Not only will He take care of us, He will exalt us![6] Peter said that because of the evil of this world, we will know difficulties, but because we belong to the great Heavenly Father, “after [we] have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory in Christ will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”[7]

So, what does that mean? What can we expect from God?

You can’t even begin to imagine it! “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”[8] In fact, our Heavenly Father “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.”[9] David sang, “How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you. You lavish it on those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world.”[10]

When we hold on to God in our trials and struggles and suffering – when we look at Him with the awe and honor that He deserves – when we look to Him as our hope, rather than to this world, at the right time, our loving Heavenly Father will lavish on us the great goodness He has stored up for us. He will bless us while the rest of the world watches. He will bless us far more abundantly that we can imagine – right here and now!

You want a taste of how extensive the lavish love of your Father is for you? Go out on a dark, clear night and see if you can count all the stars. With all of our technology, we continue to discover more and more. Your Father created all those stars. His love for you is greater than the expanse of the stars. His love and His power go far beyond the limits of our universe. And consider this: your Father can go well beyond the farthest-most star, and at the same time, is right there with you at this very moment. He is more awesome; more powerful; more loving than anything – any trouble; any pain; any trial – the world can conjure.

No wonder the Psalmist sang that those who trust in the Lord “do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.”[11] So you may be going through a very difficult time right now. Your mind may be rehearsing all the trials and suffering you’ve seen and can imagine. You may not see how in the world you can make it through this. Take those thoughts captive, change the way you’re thinking, and remember that you may be in the world, but you are not of the world and your Heavenly Father has hope for you that far exceeds what you can ask or imagine. Hold on, because at just the right time, He, Himself, will bring to you the absolutely wonderful things He has already prepared for you.

copyright January 25, 2014, J. Kevin Cassil – all rights reserved

There’s Gotta Be Another Way!

by Kevin Cassil

I had planned to write on a wholly different subject today. But ever since Wednesday night, I’ve been grappling with this. Then a reference in the group of guys I met with this morning just seemed to clinch it. So here goes…

I’ve thought about Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane many times, but something occurred to me this morning that had not sunk in before. We often talk around Christmas time about the evidence of Jesus’ humanity displayed by His being born in humble circumstances – born in a stable and laid in a manger. Our Heavenly Father did indeed demonstrate to us that His Son was sent to earth as a fully human sacrifice, born like all the rest of us, even born into this broken world in far less than ideal circumstances. But perhaps nothing else speaks to me about Jesus’ humanity – His understanding and identification with us, as His grieving and agony in the Garden.

It was in that moment that Jesus, who had spent His entire life pursuing the very purpose for His life on Earth, wrestled with the reality of what it was going to mean to take the next step. He agonized over the “cup of suffering”[1] He had to drink. He wondered if there might be some other way after all.

There’s a far more powerful dynamic at work here though than just Jesus’ desire to avoid suffering. On that same night Jesus prayed that the Father would complete the work He sent Jesus to do and restore Him to the Father’s side in glory.[2] That’s what hit me this morning: in the midst of His agony, Jesus knew how the story would end.

Jesus knew the plan. He knew that by His sacrifice His purpose would be fulfilled. He knew that by drinking the cup, those He loved; those He had prayed for; His bride would be saved. He knew that the plan was for him to conquer death and to reign as King of Kings in eternal glory in Heaven. He knew the “why” and was fully behind it. He knew the “what” and was all-in. It was the “how” that suddenly came face-to-face with His human-ness.

It is the “how” that we often run into as well. We may pray for something fervently, yet we question the way God asks us to go about it. That’s what I’ve been wrestling with and perhaps you’ve found yourself wrestling with that at times too. We can be fully behind the why and the what, but the how can make us everything from uncomfortable to downright terrified!

Sometimes we worry that if we do it God’s way, what we’ve been seeking might somehow elude us. We fear that we can’t do it or that it won’t turn out the way we’ve hoped and prayed. We look at the price we’re being asked to pay and wonder if it will be worth it. Will it pay off? How can this possibly be a good way to go? There’s gotta be another way!

That’s where the rest of Jesus’ prayer in Luke 22:42 comes in. Through all His agony and His grief, Jesus looked at His Father and said, “not my will, but yours.” Jesus looked past the suffering and said, “I believe that what you’re asking me to do will be worth it.”

Nothing that the Father had in mind was lost in the agony. Jesus recognized that the way the Father chose to fulfill His plan was the right way – the most excellent way. He understood that if He went through with what the Father was asking Him to do, the salvation and victory and glory would all be waiting on the other side. They would not be lost. They would not elude Him. They would not be dimmed, tarnished, or diminished in the slightest by what He had to endure. In fact, it had to happen that way.

There is nothing that we face that can in any way compare to what our Lord endured for our salvation. Yet in His human-ness that night, Jesus gave to us a powerful example. There will be times when we struggle with what God has asked us to do. In those times we must remember that our God loves us. Our God wants us to succeed. He wants us to taste and see the good things He has planned and prepared for us. Nothing of all that goodness is lost in the challenge of how He’s asked us to proceed. In fact, the “how” is an integral part of the very joy and victory we will ultimately see when we do it God’s way.

So, when we are faced with those challenges, we might at first know fear. We might even agonize over what we are asked to do. That’s human. The bottom line is will we look past the fear and the worry and the doubt and even the pain and see that the beautiful things our Heavenly Father has prepared for us – in this life and the next – will be waiting for us on the other side? It will be worth it.

Copyright January 18, 2014, J. Kevin Cassil – all rights reserved


[1] Luke 22:42

[2] John 17:4-5

There is Faith in Silence

by Kevin Cassil

Earlier this week, I read a short devotional written by Jack Hayford that really struck a chord with me. He was commenting on the story in the book of Luke about the angel’s announcement to Zechariah regarding the birth of John the Baptist. At the end of the encounter, the angel pronounced upon Zechariah what most consider a chastisement. However, Dr. Hayford points out that in truth, the angel’s action was a blessing to Zechariah, and to us.

The event is recorded in Luke chapter 1, but you are probably familiar with it. Zechariah, the priest, and his wife, Elizabeth, were very old, yet had no children. They both loved God and honored him with their lives. One day, while Zechariah was serving in the temple, it was his turn to enter the “holy place” alone to burn incense to the Lord. While he was there, an angel appeared to him.

What followed is a familiar exchange. Zechariah, upon seeing the holy angel – obviously an awesome, even fearsome sight (so unlike the fair, mild, almost fluffy stereotype we are used to) – he was incredibly afraid. To this reaction, the angel reassured him, “Do not be afraid.”[1]

The angel went on to tell Zechariah that his prayers had been heard and that Elizabeth was going to give birth to a son. The angel told him to name the boy “John” and that he would do great things for God.

How awesome was this message from God to his servant, Zechariah! Not only was God announcing to him that he was granting him the very thing he had been praying for, God said that Zechariah’s son would be great – that he would be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he was born. This had to have been overwhelming to Zechariah! Imagine: being in the holy place was itself a heady experience… and then to see an angel. And then to have that angel tell you that God was going to grant you the one thing you had prayed for most – even though it seemed impossible. And then for him to tell you that your son was going to be great; that he would “go as the forerunner before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah[2]!” This was abundantly more than Zechariah had ever hoped or imagined. His head must have been reeling!

Zechariah’s response poured out of his desire to trust in God; his hope that what the angel said was really true; and yet his human recognition of the “realities” of his situation – he and Elizabeth were old, and they had never been able to have children. He said to the angel, “How can I be sure of this? For I am an old man and my wife is old as well.”[3]

It was then that the angel Gabriel said to Zechariah, in essence, “God, the Father gave me this message directly and sent me to tell you this. You should know that whatever the Father says will happen always happens.” Then Gabriel told Zechariah that he would not be able to speak until all that he had told him had come to pass.

Have you ever felt God tell you something that you wanted to believe, but just found it really hard to believe? Have you ever prayed for something and wanted to have the faith to believe it, but the “realities” of the situation screamed that it was a long shot – even “impossible”? Have you ever read promises in the Bible and thought it would sure be nice if you could see that in your life, but your experience told you that it was very unlikely?

You and I wrestle with the very same thing that Zechariah wrestled at that moment in the temple when he stood before the angel Gabriel. We wrestle with doubt. We want to believe. We want the awesome things of God we read in the Bible to be true in our lives, but we doubt. We want to believe what we heard the Spirit whisper during our prayers, but we doubt. Our mind whispers – or maybe even screams, “This can’t be so!”

That’s where the blessing Gabriel bestowed on Zechariah becomes so powerful. Gabriel silenced Zechariah. He made it impossible for Zechariah to say, “I don’t see how this can happen.” He silenced Zechariah’s doubt. Gabriel left Zechariah with God’s message in his ears and without the ability to give voice to any word of doubt.

Zechariah was left mute for more than nine months. He was mute, but he was not unable to share the hope that obviously grew in his heart. For, although Elizabeth did not hear Gabriel’s message, when her son was born, she insisted that he be named what her husband had shown her God wanted the child to be named. When Zechariah, in the faith that had multiplied in his heart over this time was asked what he wanted to name the boy, he declared the very thing that Gabriel had spoken to him: “His name is John.”[4] Immediately, when his faith in the “impossible” thing God had told him was declared, Zechariah’s silence ended and he praised his God.

Gabriel’s message from our Father God is a great lesson for us. When we are faced with the challenge to believe God for something “impossible” in our life, silence is far better than doubt. In our silence we can be reminded that our God never fails. In our silence we can hear the encouragement of God’s Word. In our silence we can hear the confirmation from Godly ones around us. In our silence we can hear the assurance of the Holy Spirit as He speaks to our hearts and builds our faith. Then, when our faith exceeds our doubt and we see God bring forth the very thing He promised, we too can break our silence and praise God.

So don’t give voice to doubt. Be strong, take every thought captive, and don’t surrender your hope in God! Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.[5]

copyright 2014, J. Kevin Cassil – all rights reserved

Inspired by day 340 of the Celebrate! devotional series by Pastor Jack Hayford, as presented by YouVersion.com


[1] Luke 1:13 ESV

[2] Luke 1:17 NET

[3] Luke 1:18 NET

[4] Luke 1:63 NET

[5] Hebrews 10:23 NLT