Thursday, August 15, 2013

Finishing well

Have you ever heard it said, "Finish what you've started"?
Sometimes, we can become so obsessed with completion that we become blind to effectiveness. Just because a project is on the table, doesn't mean it can't be returned to the shelf. No, my desire is not to convince you to finish everything. My desire is to encourage you to finish the right thing. Certain races are optional- like speed reading and sports; other races are essential- like the race of faith. Consider the admonition from the author of Hebrew, "...let us run with endurance the race that is set before us..." (Hebrews 12:1)

The word "Race" is from the Greek "agon", from which we get the word "agony". The Christian's race is not a jog, but rather a demanding and grueling, sometimes agonizing race. It takes a massive effort to finish strong. I'm sure you've observed that there are many on the side of the trail?! They used to be running. There was a time when they kept the pace; but then weariness sets in. They didn't think the run would be this tough, or they were discouraged by a bump and daunted by a fellow runner. Whatever the reason, they don't run anymore. They may be Christians... they may come to church, but are their hearts in the race? They retire before their time. Unless something changes, their best work will have been their first work, and they will finish with a whimper.

By contrast, Jesus' best work was his final work, and his strongest step. Our Master is the classic example of one who endured. The writer of Hebrews goes on to say that Jesus, "Held on while wicked people were doing evil things to Him." The Bible says Jesus, "Held on", implying that Jesus could have, "let go". The runner could have given up, sat down, gone home. He could have quit the race; but he didn't! He held on! He kept on running!
Jesus was tempted, accused, and criticized, but he kept running! The question is... how? How did he endure such disgrace? What gave Jesus the strength to endure the shame of all the world? We need an answer, don't we? Like Jesus we are tempted. Like Jesus we are accused. Like Jesus we are ashamed. But unlike Jesus, we give up. We give out. We sit down. How can we keep running as Jesus did? How can our hearts have endurance Jesus had?
By focusing where Jesus focused: on, "the joy that God put before Him." (Hebrews 12:2)
He, "accepted the shame as if it were nothing because of the joy that God put before him." In His final moments, Jesus was able to focus on the prize of heaven. By focusing on the prize, he was able not only to finish the race, but to finish it strong!
Surrounded by saints and engulfed by Jesus himself, the work will, indeed, be finished. The final harvest will have been gathered, we will be seated, and Christ will christien the meal with these words: "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:23 KJV)

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