Know When to Quit and When to Fight

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
Default image
Part of excellence in any pursuit is knowing when to quit while you're on top. The sports world is filled with stories of once-great athletes too competitive to walk away from the sport they love, trying desperately to hold on after their physical skills have deserted them. The annals of war tell of once-great generals who fought battles with the tactics and weapons of previous wars—and thousands of battlefield crosses are a mute testimony to their reluctance to leave. It's the same in the political arena, in the halls of business, perhaps even in the pulpit.

Fortunately, the Bible gives us plenty of stories of men and women who did know when to retire or give way to younger voices.

Once such example is Peter, one of the most appealing, most human of all of the figures from the New Testament. By the time of the last chapters of Acts, the many trials of his life have transformed a brash, impulsive youth into a powerful, compassionate maturity. He's endured imprisonments, beatings, and threats, and still managed to shepherd the infant Church through a perilous infancy.

In Acts 10, God tells him that the good news is for all people—not just the Jews. Despite plenty of opposition, Peter bravely leads the people of the Way in this bold new direction.

Peter appears again in Acts 12, imprisoned by King Herod Agrippa I. He watches in horror as James, the brother of John, is murdered. Then, after another miraculous release, Peter gracefully cedes the leadership of the tiny Christian movement to James (the brother of Jesus) and Paul.

Peter is probably an old man by now—at least for someone born during this era. He knows his time has come.

Or has it?

In Acts 15, the new movement faces its greatest challenge. A council of apostles and elders is hastily convened in Jerusalem. At stake is whether new converts must be circumcised before they can become Christians. It's not going well. Finally, James, Barnabas, and Paul appeal to the old warrior to make a final plea.

Slowly, painfully, Peter addresses the believers. He reminds them that God originally chose him to tell the Gentiles the Good News.

"Now therefore why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will."

The book of Acts says the assemblage fell silent, until first Barnabas, then Paul, and finally James stand to speak. All emphatically agree—this is exactly what Jesus would have said.