Found this interesting devotional in an old issue of Our Daily Bread, a daily devotion book that I have. The key passage was II Timothy 4:7, which says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
“When I was a kid, I dreamed of becoming a black belt in karate. Several years ago, I began training and came close to fulfilling that goal. However, two belts away from my goal, I quit. There were two reasons: my teacher changed styles in the middle of my training, and I got so busy that I could not devote adequate time for training.
Almost every week, I am nagged by the thought that God wants me to be a finisher in all aspects of my life, but especially in my service for Him.
As Paul spoke of the conclusion of his life, he did not have any nagging thoughts of unfinished business about his ministry. In this final farewell, Paul used imagery rich words to talk about finishing his service for Christ. He described his life and ministry in terms of a fight, “I have fought the good fight.” The fight was good because he had engaged in it for God and the gospel. Then he used the imagery of a race as synonymous with his ministry, “I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Paul affirmed that by God’s grace he had finished all that God had given him to do.
As followers of Jesus, let us strive to be finishers, persevering in our service for Jesus Christ. For every follower of Christ, there is a race to run. And when we cross the finish line, we’ll be with Christ, God’s Son. Run the race with eternity in view.”
As I consider that short devotion, I wonder, how are we doing at being finishers in life? It’s one thing to finish a project, or to finish a job. But how are we doing when it comes to being finishers in our service to God, and our Christian walk? Perseverance is getting back up each time we fall. Being a finisher in the faith means that when dark valleys come our way, we cling to the promise that, “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you are with me.” Being a finisher of the faith means that when our time on earth is through, we don’t look back with any regrets of what we could have or should have done for God.
To be a real finisher of the faith means that one day, we will hear God say to us, “Well done good and faithful servant. Enter into your master’s happiness.” And won’t that be the ultimate prize, the prize that is worth being a finisher!
We’re going to lose weight, exercise more, get out of debt, stick to a budget, stop smoking, save for the future, spend more time with family, and so many other great things this year. We make resolutions because we want to bring change into our lives. We want to improve ourselves and our quality of life. And the top resolutions, for most people, tend to revolve around the same three basics: wealth, health, and family.
But what would a set of New Year’s resolutions look like for you and our church? Though we could add many more to this list, here are six to consider. Perhaps you could devote two months to each of these through the coming year?
1. Pray more. “And they devoted themselves to prayer…” How devoted to prayer are you right now? Is it a once a week, once a day, twice a day kind of pattern, or are you constantly going to God in prayer about everything?
2. Confront patterns of sin. “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” This year, make a conscious effort to eliminate the things that are holding you down, and get rid of the sin in your life.
3. Invest in my spiritual gift or gifts. “Do not neglect your gift…, be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.” The church is a body, and we all need each other to use the gifts that they have been given. Are you?
4. Love people. “If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s word with power, revealing all His mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.” Everything we do, say, and think should be marked by love. How’s you love?
5. Quit comparing myself to other Christians, other leaders, and other churches. “Turning his head, Peter noticed the disciple Jesus loved following right behind. When Peter noticed him, he asked Jesus, “Master, what’s going to happen to him?” Jesus said, “If I want him to live until I come again, what’s that to you? You, follow me.”” Don’t compare yourself to others, compare yourself to God. And then you will realize that there is much room for improvement no matter who you are.
6. Get more intentional about evangelism. “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.” As followers of Christ, one of our biggest responsibilities, is to be fishers of men, to complete the Great Commission. Are you out sharing your faith? If not, get started this year.
Now it’s not part of the list, but I think we can accomplish any New Year’s resolution simply by remaining focused. And when it comes to this list of six, we need to stay focused on the vision. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”