Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Man Who Quit Too Soon

One of the most common causes of failure is the habit of quitting when one is overtaken by temporary defeat. Every person is guilty of this mistake at one time or another. I once heard a story about such an instance, when a man named, R.U. Darby, quit too soon.

Darby was caught up by the ‘gold fever’ in the days when men and women were heading to westward in search of fortune. Darby dreamed of digging deep and growing rich; so he staked a claim and went to work with pick and shovel.

After weeks of labor, he was rewarded by the discovery of the shining ore. He needed machinery to bring the ore to the surface. Quietly, he covered up the mine, retraced his footsteps to his home in Williamsburg, Maryland, and told his relatives and a few neighbors of the ‘strike of a lifetime’ and even impressed them with the gold nugget. They got together money for the needed machinery and had it shipped. With the necessary equipment procured, Darby went back to work the mine.

The first car of ore was mined and shipped to a smelter. The returns proved they had one of the richest mines in Colorado! A few more cars of that ore would clear the debts—then would come the big, killing profits! Down went the drills! Up went the hopes of Darby and his associates! Then unexpectedly something happened. The vein of gold ore disappeared! They had come to the end of the rainbow, and the pot of gold was no longer there. They drilled on, desperately trying to pick up the vein again—all to no avail. Finally, they decided to quit. Darby was discouraged and deep in debt.

He sold the machinery to a “junk man” for a few hundred dollars, and took the train back home. The junk man decided to call in a mining engineer to look at the mine and do a little calculating. The engineer advised that the previous project had failed because the owners were not familiar with ‘fault lines.’ His calculations showed that the gold vein would be found just three feet from where the Darby had stopped drilling!

Amazingly, that is exactly where it was found! The junk man took millions of dollars in ore from the mine because he knew enough to seek expert counsel before giving up. Meanwhile, Darby was known in those parts from then on as “the man who quit too soon.”

Is that story fiction or fact? I’m not sure, but that man’s initials pose an interesting question—R.U. Darby? In other words, are you prone to start projects and then snuff out when the opposition pushes back? It’s sad to say, but the church is full of Darby’s. Look back across time and you will see the spiritual half-hearts who gave up on God’s dream for them. We all remember the heroes of the faith, but we don’t know the quitters.  

Fortunately, God will be the last one to ever write us off. I can think of at least one quitter in the New Testament—Simon Peter. The occasion was after the black Friday of Jesus’ crucifixion and Peter’s three-fold denial. In John 21:3 we read Peter’s discouraging words, “I’m going fishing.” Peter had failed and so he thought he would go back to what he knew how to do—fish.

Later that morning, Jesus appeared and called out to Peter from the shore, “Have you caught any fish?” Throughout the Bible, God often asked probing questions when He wanted a confession. In the same way, Jesus was asking His disciples, "Did you catch anything? Have you been successful? Have things gone the way you had hoped they would go? Are you satisfied?" Peter and company answered back dejectedly, “No!”  

Peter had come full circle—the same sea, same empty net, the same boat, perhaps even the same spot. I will let Max Lucado’s masterful narration take it from here:

“Try the other side!” the voice yells back. John looks at Peter. ‘What harm? So out sails the net. Peter wraps the rope around his wrist to wait. But there is no wait. The rope pulls taut and the net catches. Peter sets his weight against the side of the boat and begins to bring in the net; reaching down, pulling up, reaching down, pulling up. He’s so intense with the task, he misses the message. John doesn’t. The moment is déjà vu. This has happened before. The long night. The empty net. The call to cast again. Fish flapping on the floor of the boat. Wait a minute. He lifts his eyes to the man on the shore. “It’s him,” he whispers. Then louder, “It’s Jesus.” Then shouting, “It’s the Lord, Peter. It’s the Lord!” Peter turns and looks. Jesus has come. Not just Jesus the teacher, but Jesus the death-defeater, Jesus the king . . .Jesus the victor over darkness. Jesus the God of heaven and earth is on the shore . . . and he’s building a fire. Peter plunges into the water, swims to the shore, and stumbles out wet and shivering and stands in front of the friend he betrayed. Jesus has prepared a bed of coals. Both are aware of the last time Peter had stood near a fire. Peter had failed God, but God had come to him. For one of the few times in his life, Peter is silent. What words would suffice? The moment is too holy for words. God is offering breakfast to the friend who betrayed him. And Peter is once again finding grace at Galilee . . . Jesus has come back. He invites you to try again, this time with Him.”[1]

What have you given up on? A prodigal son or daughter? A loveless marriage? A call to ministry? A zeal for serving God? A sin that you’ve accepted and rationalized, “I can’t change!”? You’ll never be content as long as you know you could have done more and tired harder with Jesus. Don’t quit on the one yard line. Peter almost did, but if he’d given up preaching for fishing he’d never gotten to see the miracle of Pentecost (Acts 2). If you’ve faced temporary defeat, don’t quit. Move three feet over and dig again. -DM   

[1] Max Lucado, He Still Moves Stones (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1993), 140. 

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