• Our hope-filled future is bound up in sharing the story of Jesus, in discipling others, in bringing those disciples together into communities of believers, and in developing and releasing those believers to create other communities... till Jesus the King comes again!

Do you ever feel like throwing in the towel?

It’s an idiomatic expression that gets translated in different ways in different languages. In French we say, “Throwing (in) the sponge” Why a sponge?  Taken from the world of boxing, throwing the sponge into the ring was a signal that the boxer from that corner was giving up and giving the win to the other fighter.towel

In cross cultural living and ministry, such ‘sponges’ can be thrown quite often.  Sometimes, it comes about because we don’t have the energy to try and navigate the administrative hurdles of living in a particular region of the world. Sometimes, it happens when one more person asks that question that we dislike: “You must not be from here. Your accent gives you away.  Where do you come from?”  Or sometimes, it comes from the lack of observable fruit in the ministry in which we have been engaged for a good deal of time.

Granted, we can talk ourselves out of truly ‘throwing in the towel’, but before we know it the feeling can return because of another event or misplaced word.

Throwing in the sponge’ is an indicator that our hold on God, our calling, and our friends is at best weak.  Three steps we might think about. First, fix in your mind the journey that led you to put your faith and trust in God.  Remember how He opened your heart to hear His voice, and the effort He went to in bringing you to Himself. Second, speak back to yourself those words that marked the beginning of your ‘call’ by God to serve Him.  This is not our work or just our adventure. This is first God’s work. Reminding ourselves of how He brought us here, gives us renewed confidence to move out again into our world.   Third, make it a habit to call a friend and check in with another as to how you are doing.  It’s the words of a friend that are a blessing to the soul, and can be used by God to direct our ways.

Rather than ‘throwing in the towel’, it would be better to throw up (or lift) our hands to God.

2 Responses

  1. Thanks, David. I once heard John Karetji use this as an illustration, and he aptly commented, “It’s the coach, not the boxer, who throws the towel in the ring.” I agree that it is not up to us to decide when we’re done. It’s God’s decision. Certainly the points you make will strengthen us so we can “keep on keeping on” (as Bertel Vine used to say). And I’m so thankful for a few friends who check in on me to see how I’m doing. Dave Martin

    • Thanks Dave for speaking into this idea! We all need others who ‘check in on us to see how we’re doing’. Thanks for your example in this.

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