Finishing the Course

Over two years ago I ascended the small platform in a coffee shop that no longer exists to preach my last sermon to a group of young adults crammed into a trendy building to hear the gospel. It was the sermon that said, I have left it all on the field, I have given you what I know, now carry on and preach the gospel to each other and the waiting world.

The text of the night was Acts 20 and Paul’s final words to the elders of the church in Ephesus. Paul shows his resolve and I had tried my best to model my ministry after his, to preach nothing but Christ and him crucified. Oh to live this way!

Then this week a good friend who is sensing an increasing call to global missions shared how he was stirred by a sermon on Acts 20:24 and the Lord used it as a sweet reminder of the call to faithfulness.

Here are Paul’s words to the leaders of the church: “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:24 ESV).

Paul knows he is departing Asia headed for his final acts of ministry. Shortly after he will be taken as a prisoner to Rome where he will eventually be martyred. No fleeing, no scheming to avoid imprisonment. Just leaving it all on the field, preaching the gospel of grace. The thing of value for Paul is not his life, but the gospel.

He lived it. And countless others have as well. And oh that the Lord would empower me to live like this.

As we head into 2017 I don’t have a resolution but this is my prayer. That the trappings of life would be of little value and even my own life would not be what is precious but that I would spend this year, and the decades to come, so transformed by the gospel that I can preach nothing else. That I would so experience the grace and love of God in Christ that it flows to all around me for his glory.

Maybe you might want to pray this way too. That Jesus would be bigger in 2017 to you, that nothing else would take your attention and passion like your Savior. I think it is a prayer that he is pleased to answer.

We won’t be perfect, but by his grace we can keep at it, keep pushing in and living to finish the course he has given us. We have as our source and our hope his grace, now and forevermore.

“And now I commend you to God and the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and give you the inheritance among all who are sanctified.” (Acts 20:32)


Rise to Fight

“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (1 Timothy 6:12 ESV)

Paul’s words to Timothy the young pastor are words for us as well. Rise to fight the good fight of faith. Stick to the gospel of grace that has been proclaimed to you and ward off attempts to water down or hamper the truth of Jesus.

This is the fight that the Spirit of God empowers us to fight. We get ammunition for the battle in the Word and fuel for the challenge in worship.

Then as we cling all the more tightly to the goodness of the gospel, we take hold of the life we have been secured in Jesus. This is the life of purpose and faith. Running the race looking to our Savior.

How can you fight today? By being reminded of your good confession in Scripture? By speaking words of of worship in the course of the day? Live from the gift of grace you have been given. Look to Jesus, and fully take hold of this new life.

Patient Plodding

“Slow-moving and unexciting.” That is how we define “plodding.” And this is exactly what I want to suggest to you that life is like most of the time.

I want it differently. I want immediate results. I want to have thirty years of experience and expertise yesterday. I want engaged, exciting and expanding events to occur every day. I want a lottery worth of cash right now without labor and skill. I imagine I am not alone in this.

In fact our culture is all about quick fixes, immediate results. The weight loss pill that gives you a slim waistline if it doesn’t make you heart burst. The two-minute date that will give you a full understanding of you potential mate. Get-rich-quick fixes over years of work.

Really we just want to “arrive.” We want the things we think will give us comfort, confidence and credibility so we can arrive in the place we dream of. I know as a leader in a church I can become obsessed with results and growth overnight. But rapid arrival may not be what we were meant for. Instead, it is usually the patient plodding of life that God uses to refine us and build us according to design.

Years of planning, care and teaching are used to build the church. Hours of practice and play are used to highlight the gifts of the musician. Repeated guidance and unconditional love are used to make the child into an adult ready to share love with another. And it is the plodding moments piled on top of each other that make a difference.

So what do we do in the midst of our right-now culture with the ideal of patient plodding, taking step after step in the right direction? We recognize it. We embrace the reality that most of the great things in life take time. We remind ourselves of the long obedience in the same direction and take comfort in the future outcome. And we don’t only look to the future for hope, we learn to see the exciting things of plodding. The commitment we make to others and they make to us. The refining that is happening along the way and the adventure that is sailed to our destined shore. Looking around as we take the thousand steps up the hill of life.

Here is to patient plodding! Trusting the God who controls all things to use our sweat and time for his glory and our good… over time.