A couple of days ago, I watched 3/4 of a less-than-engaging documentary about a guy riding a Segway from Seattle to Boston. The entire goal from the start was to finish. When I finally grew weary of the story, the crew was beginning to implode. Did they finish their mission? Probably. I don’t think they would have completed the project had they quit in Pittsburg. But did they finish well?
The concept of finishing well has been important to me from my earliest days in the faith. Recently, I required the students in my Business Ethics class to watch and review the movie Courageous. I asked them to conclude their comments by stating whether or not they desired to “finish well.”
Here are two of the responses I received:
“Finishing well for me, though, isn’t being a salaried employee or the mom that buys her kids the materialistic things of life. Finishing well for me is living the most Christ-like life possible so that one day we can reunite in His Kingdom. It is showing my children His ways and love and compassion that He shows me daily.”
“I want to do what I can to win the hearts of my children, and to teach them to live lives of integrity, because when I stand before God I know I will have to give an account for the gifts that He has entrusted to me. It is my responsibility to teach, lead, and direct them, by God’s grace, to the best of my ability, and to break the destructive cycles of our society.”
Here’s the heart of the Apostle Paul on the matter:
“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. 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, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8)
No hint of a Segway there! Paul wasn’t crossing the Roman Empire at 10 mph! He was running! He was pressing on (Phil. 3:14), intent upon completing his mission.
That’s remains my passion as well. Like my students and the Apostle, I deeply desire to finish strong. To be honest, I am not even sure what Paul means by “the crown of righteousness.” But since there is one, I want one! Having been given the righteousness of Christ, I want to live a righteous life!
PS: If you have a moment, you might follow the link below. I was encouraged by the comments of both the blogger as well as RC Sproul:
Colin Cowherd is a sage, and he works for ESPN. I hear his show occasionally on the radio as I drive. Very few individuals on the radio cause me to reflect as much as Colin. Last week he was briefly discussing the concept of contentment (it was in relation to someone in sports) and he said, “Don’t try to make happy happier.” In other words, recognize when you’ve got a good thing and don’t attempt to make a good thing better. Or–be content!
My friends, these are good words for me to hear. I have been so blessed. My needs continue to be provided. My wife loves me. My kids still think I am a decent Dad. I have full-time employment as well as a part-time job. I actually like what I do for work. I am afforded the opportunity to do that which I love–teach the Bible. A few people are not ashamed to called me “friend.” Shoot–even my favorite sports team has a good shot at winning the championship. How can I complain?!
But I do complain. I do grumble. I do struggle with discontentment. For some odd reason, I want more. I want God to tweak things so that life gets a little better–a little easier.
I am not the only one with these thoughts. Am I?
Discontentment is systemic to the human condition. Since being expelled in the garden of Eden, we have been on a quest to make happy happier. There is a verse in the New Testament which relates to this discussion.
“…make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need” (1 Thess. 4:11-12).
Here’s the rendering from The Message:
“Stay calm; mind your own business; do your own job. You’ve heard all this from us before, but a reminder never hurts. We want you living in a way that will command the respect of outsiders, not lying around sponging off your friends.”
Why did I work about fifty-five hours this past week? I don’t want to “sponge off my friends”! I want to pay my bills, commanding the respect of outsiders (those watching me from a distance). I want to live a quiet life. According to the original language (Greek), that simply means doing what we are supposed to do in the manner we are supposed to do it. We are to go about our business, being more concerned with our business rather than the business of others. The verb is a present infinitive which means that this action is to be a continuous, repeated action. I am to live a quiet life continuously–each and every day! I am to awake each morning with a committment to fulfilling my responsibilities “so help me God.”
God has helped me, and I believe He will continue to do so as I attempt to live the quiet life. He will also enable me to be content with all He has given to me. He has done enough to make me happy. I need to be grateful today and not strive to make happy happier.
Guys–if you would like to know more about Colin Cowherd and ESPN Radio, here’s the link:
“I’m thinkin’. I thinkin’.”
Several years ago I began a document entitled “I Think.” Very few of my thoughts can accurately be described as “profound.” But my mind rarely stops. Sometimes I think too much. You know what I mean. Well, for your reading pleasure, I will select a few of my written thoughts for your own musings. Here’s the first installment:
9. I think God is very gracious to allow me to continue to exist (2004).
32. I think I often do not have a clue as to what God is going to do (2004).
48. I think that is is vitally important that I pray for my children, talk to my children and live Christ before my children (2004).
68. I think God plans and bring to pass everything in my life for His exaltation (2004).
155. I think that I am not wasting my life (2005).
178. I think Jonathan Edwards grasped the knoweledge of God in a way that, quite possibly, no one else–save the Apostle Paul–has (2005).
247. I think that my faith should extinguish every doubt which arises–trusting that God both gives us desires and then takes pleasure in granting our desires that He might be most glorified in me as I am most satisfied in Him (2005).
263. I think it is almost excruciating watching a President George W. Bush press conference (2005).
291. I think I very much want to be a friend who would rather die than betray others (2006).
328. I think God does not treat us as our sins deserve and that I should be thankful for the food, shelter and clothing He provides (2009).
364. I think that Philippians 4:6 is a gift for me today (“Be anxious for nothing…”) (2009).
227. I think you should stop reading my ramblings in order to read something far more edifying–something extremely valuable–the Word of God (2005).
Jodi and I finally watched The Hunger Games. I thought the movie was rather well-done. Although I would have changed a bit regarding the directing, I found the story quite engaging. One thing is for sure: I do not ever want to play “the hunger games”!
Now please allow me to transition to a man who did not play games with his hunger. I am speaking of the Ethiopian Eunich we meet in Acts, chapther eight. Luke makes it clear to us that this man was a convert to Judiasm. He had traveled from Ethiopia to Jerusalem to worship (8:27) and on his way back home, he was studying the book of Isaiah (8:28). After showing Philip the passage he was reading–Isaiah 53:7-8–the man said, “Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else” (8:34)?
Do you see the spiritual hunger? A LONG ride to church. Time alone with his “Bible.” Asking good questions. This man really wanted to know God. He deeply desired to understand the Word of God! For him, it wasn’t a game. He was serious!
Can the same be said of us or are we playing games with God? Are we toying with the things of God? Can we honestly say,
“As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God” (Ps. 42:1).
“O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You” (Ps. 63:1).
At times, I fear for myself and my family. I fear for my friends. I fear for my students. Our relationship with God can become another activity to add to the list rather than an all-engaging quest to which everything else is regulated. Perhaps this is why we often answer questions related to our “spiritual journey” with a brief history of our relationship with the local church (where we attend or why we no longer attend). Don’t misread me at this point. I am indeed a proponent of the local church. I firmly believe that the Scripture teaches that Christians should attend a church and use their gifts and talents for the benefit of the body. However, church attendance is only a small portion of time in our week. How are we employing the remaining hours? What occupies our attention?
Today finds me in a particularly busy season of my life. I am working a full-time job and teaching two college courses (two nights a week). I am also preparing a weekly Sunday School lesson and attempting to add blog entries on a regular basis. And–as important as all of that is, I must still put forth the required effort to love Jodi as Christ loved the church and communicate with each of my four children that I love them and desire for them to “be all that they can be.” These are busy days. However, my busy-ness should never be used as a license to become “lukewarm” in my relationship with Christ. Jesus deserves my passionate pursuit. He doesn’t want me to play games. He doesn’t want you to play games either.
May today find us seeking His face and rejoicing when we see it through His Word (Acts 8:39)! My hope is that God might use this devotional and other input into our lives this week to wean us off of that which does not satisfy to that which truly satisfies (Is.55:1-2). My prayer is that God might:
“Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit” (Ps. 53:12).
Here’s the rendering of that verse from The Message:
“Bring me back from gray exile, put a fresh wind in my sails!”
I guess that’s what I need this week–a little “fresh wind”!
“I totally disagree with those who are unwilling that the Holy Scriptures should be translated into everyday languages and read by unlearned people. Christ wishes His mysteries to be made known as widely as possible. I would wish even all women to read the Gospels, and the letters of St. Paul. I wish that they were translated into all the languages of all Christian people–that they might be read and known not just by the Scots and Irish, but even by the Turks and Saracens. I wish that the farm laborer might sing parts of them at his plow, that the weaver might hum them at his shuttle, and that the traveler might ease his weariness by reciting them” (quoted in How We Got The Bible: A Visual Journey, Clinton E. Arnold, Zondervan, 2008).
I shared that quote this week in my Introduction to the Bible class I am teaching in Chattanooga. I may disagree with what Erasmus taught on the nature of man and how fallen man is saved from his sin, but I wholeheartedly agree with him regarding the need for the Bible to be translated into “everyday languages.” And, I am so thankful that I have had a copy of the Bible in my language from the moment I became a Christian. Although my preference of translation has changed over the years (KJV to NIV to NASB), I remain grateful to those who lost their lives for the noble purpose of putting the Bible in the hands of farm laborers, weavers and travelers!
Let’s not take for granted the precious gift we have from God–a copy of His Word in our language! Thank Him for it, and use it! Sing it. Hum it. Ease your weariness in it.
I’ll admit it–we are “Olympics Junkies.” However, we rejoiced last night as the cauldron was extinguished. It’s been a long seventeen days for us. I also have another admission. We did not train for our Olympic-watching experience. We’re not TV watchers. The tube is rarely on in the evenings. Consequently, our bodies have been in a bit of shock, overwhelmed by images, exhausted by late nights. But we enjoyed many, many moments, including:
- Missy Franklin–Our favorite American swimmer
- David Boudia–Our favorite American diver
- The US Women’s Gymnastics Team
- Farah and Rupp–Two countries, One friendship
- The United Kingdom–Awesome Olympics
But most importantly, we are thankful to God. He created and empowered the athletes. He blessed the organizers and participants with creativity and energy. He protected the games from natural disasters and terrorist attacks.
“God is perfect and God is good.”
U.S. Olympic diver David Boudia proclaimed these truths last night after qualifying for the medal round. Then he admitted that he would have been fine had he not even qualified.
Now that is big view of God!
Boudia’s affirmation caused me to remember to the godly resignation of the three Hebrew men in Babylon. You may recall the account. King Nebuchadnezzar had been led by some overly zealous Chaldeans to required all the inhabitants of the land to worship a golden statute. As expected, three young guys with a monotheistic heritage could not compromise. When told that a blazing fire awaited them if they refused to bow to the idol, they replied with great faith.
“Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Dan 3:16-18).
“But even if He does not…”
That is a great faith based upon Olympic Diving Theology! God is perfect and God is sovereign. He is good and He does good (Ps. 119:68). These are objective realities proven trustworthy in subjective situations. Today finds me grateful that this God used an Olympic athlete to encourage me in my journey.
What are you going through this weekend? How challenging are your “subjective situations”?
Don’t forget–God has not changed. Together let’s trust Him and do what’s right.
We drove to Northgate Mall in Hixon, TN to eat at Chick-fil-A on Wednesday. I was making a statement regarding my support for free speech. Jodi wanted to support the restaurant because of the Cathy family’s fearless stance of traditional values. My kids just like the food. As we left the mall, we walked by the Victoria’s Secret store. If you are unfamiliar with the chain, Victoria’s Secret is a woman’s clothing store whose pictures and posters blur the line between advertisement and pornography. My sons think that the images of women dressed in their underwear is gross. (I hope they never change!) As usual, I did not look in the direction of the store. TJ and Dayton were far more demonstrative in their reaction. When we approached the store, one of the boys lifted his hand and offered up a form of a salute, blocking his eyes from seeing the pictures. His brother followed suit, saluting the store in our exit.
Is it really necessary for Victoria’s Secret to be so graphic in so public of a place–a place where boys and young men are required to travel?
Leaving the ethic of advertisement for now, please allow me to make an application based upon God’s Word and the actions of my sons.
“I have made a covenant with my eyes; How then could I gaze at a virgin?”
Job 31:1; NASB
“I made a solemn pact with myself never to undress a girl with my eyes.”
Job 31:1; The Message
“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
1 Corinthians 10:31; NASB
“So eat your meals heartily, not worrying about what others say about you–you’re eating to God’s glory, after all, not to please them. As a matter of fact, do everything that way, heartily and freely to God’s glory.”
1 Corinthians 10:31; The Message
Men–what are you doing when you encounter sexually explicit images? My exhortation to you this weekend is simple:
Several years ago, Jerry Bridges wrote a very helpful book entitled Is God Really In Control (NavPress, 2006). It is subtitled Trusting God in a World of Hurt. I took it off the bookshelf this past weekend because I began to doubt. “Can we talk?” Joan Rivers used to say that before she stated her opinion. It was her way of saying (in an irritating manner I might add) that she was about to share what she believed to be fact. Well…“Can we talk?”
Not trusting God is sin.
I was sinning.
“Yet is is just as important to trust God as it is to obey Him. When we disobey God we defy His authority and despise His holiness. But when we fail to trust God, we doubt His sovereignty and question His goodness. In both cases we cast aspersions upon His majesty and His character. God views our distrust of Him as seriously as He views our disobedience. When the people of Israel were hungry they spoke against God saying, ‘Can God spread a table in the desert?…Can He supply meat for His people?’ The next two verses tell us, ‘When the LORD heard them, He was very angry…for they did not believe in God or trust in His deliverance’ (Psalm 78:19-22).”
Boy…that hit me between the eyes. I was not “trusting in His deliverance”! Ever been there? Ever wonder if God was going to come through for you? Be honest. Have you ever been to the point when you doubted God’s faithfulness?
“Can we talk?”
Although I often remind others of a verse I hold dear–Psalm 119:68 (“You are good and do good”), there are times I need “a holy smack down.” In other words, in my weakness I–too–need to be exhorted to believe and rest in truth. Bridges continued,
“In the arena of adversity, the Scriptures teach us three essential truths about God–truths we must believe if we are to trust Him in adversity. They are:
- God is completely sovereign.
- God is infinite in wisdom.
- God is perfect in love.”
Sunday morning I watched a sermon delivered by Matt Chandler. The title of his message was: God is For God. His point was: God first priority is God’s glory. In that, Chandler is correct. However, as Chandler went on to assert, God’s glorifying Himself in our lives is also good for us. It is good for me. God is indeed “for God.” He is also “for me.”
I needed to be reminded of that truth this weekend! Perhaps that was a truth you needed to hear today.
Thanks for stopping by the blog. Check out the Quick Takes page for another helpful quote by Jerry Bridges, one well-worth your read!