All through my younger years I was often told that what I planned to do was impossible. I was repeatedly told: “You can’t do it! You are too young, too small, too weak, too poor. You will never make it. You might as well give up!”
So, as one who never really had much potential and was often considered the least likely to succeed in high school and college, who would have thought that one day I would start a ministry that would grow into an international outreach which was to have an impact on tens of thousands of youth and adults?
My wife and I arrived at Bible college as new Christians, still in our teens, with little money and no jobs. Early on I was voted in one class to be the least likely to succeed in ministry. Nevertheless, I finished all four years with good grades, even though I had to work 40 – 60 hours a week on an assembly line at a window factory, along with classes and homework. By my senior year, I was running a growing youth group for a country church and teaching exercise and self-defense classes at the college and YMCA.
A few years later, the president of the college from which I had graduated called to book me at their new campus in Virginia. He asked me to address the student body on “Reaching Your Maximum Potential,” and how we had developed a successful, multifaceted ministry.
Since then I have been blessed to train hundreds of staff and volunteers—many of whom are serving in churches, ministries or missions—as well as training missionaries, pastors, chaplains, military personnel (enlisted men and women, and officers) and leaders of various ministries and organizations. The Lord has also opened doors for me to speak at several pastors’ and leadership conferences in the U.S. and other countries.
In August of 1977, with virtually no money, staff or facilities—just a lot of God-given determination—Karen and I started this ministry in the upstairs apartment of my parents’ home. I used the kitchen table as a desk and Karen kept the ministry records in a file cabinet in our bedroom. Few people thought we would succeed. Many said, “Others have tried and failed; you will too!” Nevertheless, with God’s help we persevered and for over 45 years have witnessed Him do the impossible.
Recently, after speaking at a local church where I had mentioned in my sermon about being voted least likely to succeed at Bible college, an older man told me that he remembered when I started my ministry. He had said to his wife, “He’ll never make it.” He paused and said, “I am so glad you did make it!”
There are many other stories I could share—examples of how God has enabled us to accomplish that which others thought impossible. In reality, people were right for thinking I did not have much potential. However, I have built my life and ministry on the belief that I can do all things because Christ strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). I think God chose me—the least of all—to display His transforming power and to vividly illustrate that if He can use me, He can use anyone!
One of the reasons we have such faithful volunteers and supporters is that they know I am going to do what I say I am going to do. If I believe God has led me to do something, then nothing or no one will stop me. I will persevere until it is accomplished. I will never give up until the Lord either fulfills what He led me to do, or gives definite, new direction.
I have always enjoyed a challenge. It seems the more obstacles I face and the more opposition I receive, the more determined I become. Countless times throughout my life and ministry, I have had to face the cold reality that circumstances say, “You cannot do it,” and people said, “You will never do it,” but God’s Word reminds us, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Speaking in the city of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, for a series of engagements, I designed a special outreach including relays and an obstacle course in a neighborhood that was nicknamed “Hell’s Half Acre.” It was like a time warp back to the 1960s and was similar to the neighborhood where I had been raised. Both the youth and the adults loved the competition.
Before the start of a three-legged race, Steven, a youth of about twelve years of age, hobbled over to me with a crutch. His leg was badly crippled, yet he asked if he could compete in the three-legged race. He said, “I don’t need a partner as I already have three legs.” I told him to go for it. He competed with fervent determination and nearly won the race. Before sharing my testimony following the competition, I acknowledged this youth for his courage, determination and attitude, then awarded him a Reaching Your Maximum Potential T-shirt which he appreciated and greatly deserved.
What Is Your Dream?
Proverbs 29:18 says:
Where there is no vision [revelation], the people are unrestrained [out of control], but happy [blessed] is one who keeps the Law.
To have determination that never gives up, you must have goals, dreams and vision. Believe that through Christ you can do it. Be willing to pay the price at all cost, and be motivated and empowered by His Spirit to persevere no matter what the challenge.
What goals and vision has the Lord given you through study of His Word and prayer? If you do not have any, then spend time in Scripture, prayer and fasting, and God will put His goals, His dreams, His vision and His desires in your heart. One of the reasons I am still in the ministry and still excited is due to my goals and vision for the future. When I achieve one goal, God gives me one or two more. That keeps me motivated. I often pray: “Lord, put Your goals, dreams and vision in my heart. Give me unwavering faith to believe You and the motivation and determination to persevere.” And remember, anything worth doing is worth doing with excellence. Strive to be the best you can be at whatever you do.
Determination of a Navy SWCC and SEAL
My oldest grandson, like his uncle BJ, excelled in soccer; playing for two national traveling teams. However, he gave up a college Division I soccer scholarship to enlist in the Navy and try out for Special Forces. His determination and never-quit attitude was already honed through the many difficulties and hard training he experienced in soccer. His self-imposed intense workout routines helped prepare him for the severe and extremely rigorous training at Special Forces—crawling through broken seashells and then, with open wounds, crawling through fresh sewage and repeatedly enduring freezing cold water.
My brother Ken gave an insightful quote: “If you want to be the best, you have to face the worst.” The additional challenges my grandson has faced for remaining faithful to Christ have been almost incomprehensible, but so far, with God’s help, he has overcome.
He enlisted in the Navy at age 18 with a goal and a dream to become a SWCC (SpecialWarfare Combatant Crewman). During Navy SWCC Selection, after many were either sent home or quit, a SWCC instructor asked him, “Are you going to quit?” “They will have to kill me” he replied. What he endured was horrific but he refused to give up and by age 19 he achieved his goal of Naval Special Operations Forces.
During the prestigious graduation ceremony in Coronado, the commander mentioned that my grandson gave up a college scholarship to play soccer. He then enthusiastically said to him, “Welcome to the pros!”
I have had the opportunity to speak several times at an Arab Center in California to people who have known suffering and persecution firsthand. The group consists of men, women and young people from various countries throughout the Middle East (some are Arabic instructors at the Defense Language Institute at the Presidio of Monterey in California) and U.S. military personnel. It is an incredible place to speak because there is also a meeting of Jewish believers going on at the same time in the same building. People from both groups ask, “Where else can Arabs and Jews get along so lovingly?”
However, the point I want to emphasize concerns a Navy SEAL. Following my message, many waited to talk to me, to ask questions or obtain free copies of my books. One young man was halfway through his training to become a Navy SEAL (that along with SWCC is probably the most difficult and rigorous military training available). He asked me to pray for him. After doing so I looked him in the eyes and asked, “Are you going to complete the training to become a SEAL?” He responded without hesitation as he looked me in the eyes with confidence, “Sir, they will have to break every bone in my body before I will quit!”
The attitudes of determination and resolve modeled by both these young men are needed by all believers in our commitment and service to Jesus Christ!
Never Quit; Never Give Up
One of the most important exhortations regarding the end times—repeated several times in Revelation and elsewhere—is to persevere: be faithful even to the point of death, hold on till the end, have patient endurance, be victorious, overcome, stand firm, endure to the end and do not shrink back.
After speaking at Petra Cafe in Fort Stewart, a young soldier said to me: “I want to go home, sir.” It was understandable for him to be homesick and want to quit the Army, but giving up should not be an option for a believer, nor even be in a Christian’s vocabulary.
My desire is to turn the hearts of the people back to the Lord and to inspire them to walk in faithfulness until He returns. As believers in Christ, we must have the attitude that no opposition or obstacle will cause us to give up in defeat. Instead, we must endure to the end in our commitment to Him. We must persevere, remain faithful and never give up until the Lord fulfills what He leads us to do or He gives us clear, new direction.
The Apostle Paul was in prison at Rome, knowing that his time on earth was about to end. Yet with faith and determination he wrote these powerful words in 2 Timothy 4:6-8:
…The time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.
Paul’s commitment to Christ resulted in unwavering faith and determination—even to his death. Ask God to instill in you the kind of determination Paul had: to never give up and to remain faithful to the very end.
God has taken that little bit of determination in my youth; has redirected and increased it, and enabled me by His power to do what was seemingly not doable. In upcoming books on The Impossible and Adventures in Missions, I document some of the many difficult situations the Lord has enabled me to overcome through unwavering faith in Him, obedient determination and persistent perseverance.
Determination means refusing to give up no matter how daunting the obstacle, how intense the opposition, how rough the road, or how difficult the battle, but to persevere until the very end and victory is achieved. Never forget, if you consistently, persistently, incessantly and unrelentingly believe and never give up, you will accomplish what others thought to be impossible!