The Christian Case For Quitting

By Matt Sapp

By Matt Sapp

Nobody wants to be a quitter. But Bob Goff, author of Love Does, says everyone should quit something every Thursday. He argues that quitting has taken on such a negative connotation in our culture that we’re terrified to let go of things even after they’ve long since stopped being helpful or healthy.

So we start things and accumulate things and hold onto things without ever quitting or ending or stopping or letting go. And before we know it our calendars have become so cluttered, our interests so divided and our lives so overwhelming, that we don’t know how to start reclaiming control of them.

So, following Bob Goff, here’s the challenge. What will you quit next Thursday?

You could take a New Year’s resolution approach. You could quit smoking or drinking or not going to the gym.

Or you could take a Lent approach. You could quit chocolate or soft drinks or Facebook for a defined period of time.

But let me suggest a few other things we might think about quitting.

Maybe we could quit feeling guilty. Then maybe we’d have enough room to start claiming forgiveness.

Maybe we could quit worrying so much. Then maybe we’d have some room to start trusting in faith that God is in control and love wins in the end.

Maybe we could quit blaming ourselves for past failures. Then maybe we’d discover new freedom to take healthy risks again.

Maybe we could quit our tendency toward perfectionism. Sometimes our very best is the best we can do with the time we have.

Maybe we could quit holding onto patterns and habits in our lives—and our churches—that are no longer effective. Then we’d have more time and energy to devote ourselves to new opportunities.  

Quitting gets a bad rap in America, but quitting is actually a very Christian thing to do. The Bible is full of people who quit things.

In fact, quitting—letting go of what’s behind us—is not just A biblical experience, it might be THE biblical experience. Dreaming about and going after new things—and leaving former things behind in the process—is what God calls people to do from Adam who leaves Eden to Abraham who leaves Ur, to Moses who left Midian, to Joshua who left the wilderness to lead the people into the Promised Land. The disciples left their nets and their jobs and their families. Simon and Saul even left their names behind.

And for each of them, it wasn’t just one step out of the past into the future.  It was a constant journey forward in discovery and faith.

Paul, in Philippians, encourages all of us to let go of what’s behind to reach out for what’s ahead.

The requirement that we let go of the past in order to claim something new in God’s future is so central to the Christian identity that we have to wonder why churches and Christians are so adverse to change.

I think the answer is simple. In letting go we experience loss and grief and confusion. We know our place in the former things, how and where we fit in, what’s expected of us, and how to get ahead.

The new things? Not so much. The unfamiliarity of newness is always disorienting and scary.

When I look back on the biggest transition points in my life, I think about how slow I’ve been to feel at home in the new situation. And every time, the problem is that I haven’t been able to fully embrace the future until I’ve been willing to fully let go of the past. Not because the past is somehow faulty or less than or regrettable—although sometimes it is—but because God constantly calls us forward.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the disciples lately—the first Christian quitters. We’ll be focusing on them in worship in a few months. In the disciples, we see the ordinary courage of ordinary people who were willing to leave the past behind and step into God’s future by following Jesus, and it’s remarkable.

Sometimes, even if fishing’s all you know, you have to leave your nets behind, and try something new.