Posts Tagged ‘Philippians 1:20-21’

Finishing Well

May 30th, 2011

“That I may finish my race with joy.” Acts 20:24 NKJV

“Anything worth doing is worth doing well.”

My thoughts today are about “finishing well.”

In life, beginnings are important, just as thoroughness and the diligence to follow through provides solid foundations for all future achievement. But most essential is the task of finishing well. A lot of people start things they have neither the persistence to continue nor dedication to complete. As a boy, I recall my Dad saying, “Allen, anything worth doing is worth doing well; don’t start something you don’t intend to finish.” Life one day comes to an end for one and all. At that point, what matters is your accomplishments, not your attempts or intentions.

Dad’s words were usually a reminder when I grew weary in a job not being done as well as I could. My Dad believed only a person’s best effort is worthy in God’s eyes, and His appraisal is what ultimately matters. You have fewer regrets when you have done your best. “For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these – ‘It might have been.’” John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892).

I am no longer a young man, yet there is still more for me as God gives grace and opportunity, but not as much as lays behind me. When I was a younger pastor, my thoughts were of what I hoped to do and though there is yet opportunity for accomplishment, my reflection is more on what I hope was done and whether or not it was done well. In a few months, I will relinquish to another the ministry position and responsibilities that I have carried for nearly 48 years. I have some mixed emotions about that. It is not a regret of doing so; that was my choice and God’s direction. My heart is at rest that this is “the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons.”

My concern is not whether I have done enough; the adequacy of my efforts I leave for others to evaluate. My hope is this: that what I have done by the grace of God has been done as well as I was capable of doing; that judgment I leave to God alone. The Apostle Paul had a practical approach to this. “Have I been faithful? It matters very little what anyone else thinks . . it is the Lord Himself who will examine and decide . . when the Lord comes . . then God will give to everyone whatever praise is due.” 1 Corinthians 4:1-6 NLT. Did you notice? God examines with purpose and expectation to praise you!

A runner intent on finishing well does not slow his step nor slack his effort with the finish line in sight; runners are coached to “run through the tape.” You and I are running a far more consequential race and you must cross the finish line. See Hebrews 11:1-4 NIV. Paul’s later years were spent in prison, so he used his confinement to write much of the New Testament. “My life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus – the work of telling others the Good News about God’s wonderful kindness and love.” Acts 20:24. Boundaries do not determine your potential. Finishing well means to live in such a way that the touch of your life extends well beyond the reach of your lifetime. The good news is this: as long as there is life, it is never too late to do better and finish well.

Paul finished well, as must you. “I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness . . I eagerly expect and hope I will . . have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” 2 Timothy 4:7-8/Philippians 1:20-21 NIV. My hope and heart’s intent is that I finish well with God’s approval. The applause of just one, the Just One, is enough for me, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Matthew 25:21 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is that you live a life pleasing to God and satisfying to your soul.

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Pain and Passion

October 13th, 2010

In pain you shall bear children, yet your desire shall be for your husband.” Genesis 3:16 NRSV

The person with a clear passion finds a reason to rise above their pain.”

My thoughts today are about “pain and passion.”

The verse today suggests a reality that every person will eventually face. In life, you will sometimes choose between following your pain, or following your passion. Life is not free of pain. That is the nature of your humanity and the fallen world in which you live. Life will inevitably cause you some pain.

“In pain, you shall bear children, yet your desire shall be for your husband.” Genesis 3:16 NRSV. A mother giving birth experiences the greatest physical pain anyone would willingly bear, as her choice, not imposed upon her. Why would she do so? Because of her love for her husband and a mother’s longing – a powerful passion – to see life birthed out of their love, and cradle a precious life in her arms and heart for a lifetime. The pain is forgotten in the joy of her passion.

The tragedy is that some people never get past the pain. They carry it, relive it, and hold tightly to it until it colors and shapes the rest of their lives. Tragically, they never find something for which to reach that is greater than their pain. It is easy to think that if you don’t care any more, you won’t hurt anymore. But you would be wrong. Pain cannot be totally ignored or avoided; it can, however, be replaced by a powerful passion.

Life can not be lived successfully and confidently without having and following your passion. I read these words, “When the longing for something is powerful enough, it can wipe out the pain of the past, making the wounded and weary rise again with renewed energy and purpose.” The person with a clear passion finds a reason to rise above their pain, or find healing for it, and then discovers the inner strength to pursue a greater desire. I have defined passion as the “ability to feel deeply and move boldly.”

A businessman or woman requires more of themselves – time, efforts, sacrifice – than anyone else could demand of them, willingly foregoing liberties and luxuries with which others may indulge themselves. It isn’t easy, but the passion for success, and the satisfaction of achievement, push them past their weariness and turn sacrifices into valuable investments for the future.

To fail to have a great enough and clear enough passion can leave you indifferent about the future and its limitless possibilities, in danger of accepting mediocrity and the dullness of the status quo for your life. Any time is a good time to release any hurts and disappointments and reach for something new and greater for your future. “For I know the plans I have for you. The Lord says . . to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29.11 NLT.

Paul had a passion for God that empowered his life from his first encounter with Christ. Pain? Plenty of it! Read 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 NIV. “That Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death . . I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection . . becoming like Him . . forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward.” Philippians 1:20-21/3:7-14 NIV. If any passion in life is not wrapped around your passion for God, the greatest success will be too little.

My prayer for you today is that you remain clear-eyed on your God-given destiny.

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A Lifelong Passion

October 1st, 2010

“That I may become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him.” Philippians 3:10 Amplified

“A goal not worthy of a lifetime is not deserving of the prime years of your life.”

My thoughts today are about “a lifelong passion.”

Saul of Tarsus, devout in his Jewish faith, was preoccupied with things that seemed important at the time, until he encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus. See Acts 9:1-22 NKJV. In that moment, his life became a lifelong passion to know God. Nothing else was ever again allowed to be as important as that one superceding goal.

Imprisoned in Rome, nearing the end of his life, Paul wrote, “I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus is calling us up to Heaven. I hope all of you who are mature Christians will agree on these things.” Philippians 3:13-15 NLT. A goal that is not worthy of a lifetime is not deserving of the prime years of your life.

Life cannot be successful or truly satisfying if you allow yourself to be carried in the direction of every wind of shifting circumstance or mood, good, bad, or indifferent. It is not the direction from which the wind blows – circumstances, expediency, impulses, popular opinion, self interest – that can be allowed to determine your destination; it must be the “set of your sails” to embrace every wind and use that experience or circumstance to take you where your destiny in Christ calls you to go.

“One ship drives east and another drives west, with the selfsame winds that blow. ‘Tis the set of the sails and not the gales that decides the way to go. Like the winds of the sea are the ways of fate, as we voyage along through life. ‘Tis the set of the soul that decides its goal, and not the calm or the strife.” Ella Wheeler Wilcox.

In my Junior year of college, I chose today’s verse (Philippians 3:10) as my “life verse,” a God-sized goal for the spiritual direction of my life. I do not claim to have perfectly achieved that goal, but my longing for that to be true is no less so today. My life has taken many paths, my years filled with varying circumstances, some delightful and others difficult.  But yet today, I still want to truly know God with a deepening intimacy of real life experience with Jesus.

There are many decisions you must make in life, some more important, some less. Most are just about matters of the moment, but some will matter for a lifetime, and a few for eternity. Life is at its best when you make every decision – big or small – in light of a clear goal that you have set for the direction of your spiritual life and relationship with God. Then, whether in “calm or strife,” your goal remains clear and your life on course.

Do not allow the immediacy of everyday life to distract you, even briefly, from the big story that God is telling through you. Life is bigger than everyday. Right now sometimes demands a preeminence and importance that it does not deserve, and eternity can seem distant and secondary, if you are not careful. Do not be deceived; nothing, absolutely nothing, is more consequential than all that is eternal! “I eagerly expect and hope that in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted . .” Philippians 1:20-21 NIV.

My prayer for you today is to know where you are going and the One who leads you.

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