You Can’t Give Away Something You Don’t Have.

Guest posts

I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.” – William Faulkner

You just read the closing part of Faulkner’s acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize at the Nobel banquet at City Hall in Stockholm, Sweden, on December 10, 1950. The entire speech lasted about three minutes and, like the Gettysburg Address, has no fat on its bones at all. It was succinct, powerful stuff. I won’t post the whole thing, but it bears reading. Google it.

You Can’t Give Away Something You Don’t Have.
Source: Pixabay

If you read Faulkner, you’ll find that his writings are packed with Christian themes (although his personal life, with multiple affairs, leads me to think that he lived his life just a little on the wrong side of the King James Version.) But I love the quote above, and here’s why:

We can, if we aren’t careful, turn into self-serving little clods. We live in this culture of outrage. We are offended by everything. Granted, some things are worth getting worked up over. But pity the one who goes through life looking for something to get enraged about. So they rant, and rail, and lash out at anyone who doesn’t see things the way they do. And, in offense’s worst state, they want those not agreeing with them shut down, silenced, banished.

I want to state unequivocally that wanting someone who disagrees with you to be silenced is cowardly and non-Christian. What are you afraid of? Have we become such weenies that we are threatened by opposing viewpoints? To put a finer point on things, are we not as Christians so uncertain about our own beliefs that to be confronted with challenges causes us to run to the nearest rabbit hole?

Check out Faulkner again. He states that we are capable of compassion, sacrifice, and endurance. In the context of believers, that implies that we can care and love for our enemies, that we can give ourselves to them and for them, and that we can stand up to anything hurtful or harmful – or unfair and inaccurate – that they might say to us. Actually, that sounds pretty Christlike to me.

Faulkner’s answer was found in words, in poetry, in soaring discourse. Read this again: “It is his (the writer’s) privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past.”

That’s good counsel for the poet, and good counsel for us, too. We have that same privilege as we look to others.

But we can’t give away something that we don’t have. We are the end product of those before us who give us examples of courage, honor, hope, pride, compassion, pity, and sacrifice. More importantly, we have received the same examples from Christ Himself.

Here’s the point. Don’t miss the point. To the extent that you can accept these strengths, divinely given, you can prevail against the ill winds of culture. You have a new Spirit in you, if you’re a believer. It’s a Spirit that will guide you away from blind outrage, away from perceived or real slights, away from any sense of entitlement you may have.

Life is hard. It’s SUPPOSED to be. You are supposed to struggle and content. Without struggle, where would the glory be? No, see, you are supernaturally empowered to be gifted, to be a gift, to be an encourager, and to always and forever have hope. You don’t have to remain in the dark state you are in. O be joyful.

This is a guest post written by Tony Martin. He is the creator of the awesome blog named You Can Have Hope and it can be found at He is also the associate editor of The Baptist Record, the newsjournal of the Mississippi Baptist Convention.

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