Finishing Strong

JESUS SPEAKING

          “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.  For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it — lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish?’ (Luke 14: 27-29.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

          Following Jesus Christ is not easy.  Fleshly desires don’t just go away; selfishness and lust are lifelong companions; they are indulgences that must be denied daily.  The price for our eternal existence is death in this life; death to self-centered living.  The wants and needs of a disciple are superseded by the wants and needs of others.  The cross is a symbol for every believer; it is a symbol of selflessness; it represents the victory of God’s will over self-preservation.  Shortly before dying on the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished.”  His life (and death) exemplified complete servitude.  Every disciple who follows Jesus must follow him to the very end.  There are no points for almost; no congratulations for half-way; and no reward for those who don’t finish.  The calling of God is a race that must be concluded; a work that demands completion; a journey with only one destination.

          Some time ago, I was volunteering at a non-profit agency.  When my time there had come to an end, the staff took me out to lunch; I told them I was leaving to attend seminary.  Immediately someone pointed to the quiet man eating across from me; I was made aware that he used to be a pastor.  He and I began to talk a little bit; he had been a minister for nearly his entire life, and had recently left the congregation.  He was rather unexcited to speak about it and so the subject quickly changed.  Later, I was privately informed of why he left the church; he had given in to homosexual temptations and was living with another man.  After so many years of faithful service, he had walked away to indulge in the lusts of his flesh.  My heart was grieved for him.  On my last day, I went to his office to leave him a note; on a yellow sticky I wrote, “Finish the race” (a phrase an ex-pastor would have easily understood.  Note:  The phrase comes from 2 Timothy 4: Verses 6-8.  Shortly before being martyred, Paul the Apostle wrote, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”)  I signed my name and put the note on his computer; (right next to a framed picture of he and his lover.)  He had spent his whole life serving God and others, only to forsake his maker just near the end.

          Before making the decision to follow Christ you should sit down and consider the cost.  A life of complete selflessness requires a great deal of sacrifice.  You must turn away from sin and deny your own wants and needs daily.  You must esteem everyone else as more important than yourself; and you must continue this life until the very end.  Are you willing to pay this price?  The cost of eternal life is high, but the reward is far greater than anything you could ever imagine.

          “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You and commit ourselves to a life of service and selflessness.  We desire to do Your will; we seek to esteem others above ourselves.  We lay down our lusts and take up Your cross.  Please give us strength to complete the task that we have started.  Perfect us by the power of Your Holy Spirit, that we might finish the race, and one day be able to say, “It is finished.”  We love You Lord, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name, Amen.”  God bless all of you.

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