What are we preparing for?

A few weeks ago, I was struggling with where I am as far as my career goes. I should have had two books out by now, but things have not gone as planned due to changes in one publishing house, and Covid delays in the other.

My freelance writing also slowed down a bit. I was looking at where I wasn’t at in my career and looking at where others are in their careers. I got frustrated. During this time, my Bible reading was in 2 Corinthians 11.

I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? 30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. 33 But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands.

2 Corinthians 11:23-33

It dawned on me while I was reading. Paul’s mindset was not on working hard to retire but preparing to be a martyr. Those mindsets couldn’t be more different. One strives for ease and comfort, and the other welcomes trials to grow strength.

As I’ve been working on one of my writing projects and came across this quote, “I have one desire now — to live a life of reckless abandon for the Lord, putting all my energy and strength into it.” — Elisabeth Elliot, Through Gates of Splendor (original quote from missionary Ed McCully). As well as this one from her husband.

As a member of the Redeeming Your Time book launch team, Jordan Raynor has taught me about unfinished to-do lists. Of course, there’s always something we won’t get done. But this week, I was reminded of that again because I’ve attended two memorial services within a week’s time.

I know we all will have unfinished things, but I want to make sure I’ve done as much as possible to leave as little a list as possible. Jim Elliot said this, “When it comes time to die, make sure that all you have to do is die.” For those who don’t know — Jim Elliot lived those words. He was martyred in Ecuador, trying to reach an unreached tribe with the gospel of Jesus.

Jim Elliot lived fully and died laying it all on the line. Retirement wasn’t on his mind either. Carrying out the work of His Father in Heaven was. God decided to take Him home earlier than we all thought, yet he finished strong. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind who was first in His life.

When it comes down to it, the retirement mindset is about self. I’m not saying retirement is bad. Retiring from a job is expected. However, retirement from serving God is not. We are His servants to do with as He pleases. For some, like the two people I attended services for, God chose to take sooner than we all expected. For others, He chooses to leave here longer. The fact is we don’t know when it will be our time to die. But when it is my time, I don’t want to be wishing I had done more for the kingdom and didn’t. I want to go out like my Dad and Jim Elliot did. Guns blazing, ready at any time to meet my maker.

How to Finish: A Reminder for Myself

For the past five years or so, I’ve set yearly goals for myself. My goals vary each year. Some goals I hit and other goals get rolled over into the next year.

This year, I decided not to set any new goals because I was falling behind in finishing the ones I already set for myself. I wanted this year to be a year of finishing.

I was told by someone who had a big influence on my life, good and bad, “You never finish anything you start”.

To be honest, it struck a chord with me. I want to be a person that not only starts but finishes. And not just finishes but finishes strong. It is easy to start projects but finishing them takes grit and sheer determination. When you’re half way into your goal and growing weary, it’s easy to think, “Is this really that important?” Or “Why am I doing this again?” That’s when you have to dig deep.

As many of you know, I recently earned my black belt. But, when I was two months away from my test, I struggled to persevere. I was tired. I didn’t feel like I was ever going to become a black belt. The material felt like it only stayed in my short term memory. So, every time I trained I felt like I was starting at square one. It was frustrating and discouraging.

I felt like I hit a wall. I decided to take a moment away from training in order to pin point why I was struggling so much. I wrote down why I wanted my black belt, and why I started in the first place. One of the reasons was to prove to myself that I could finish and finish strong.

Sure enough, when test day came around, I felt ready. Why? because, I pushed through the days I didn’t want to train. I pushed through the excuses. And I pushed through training while fighting off a cold that kept coming back. I realized during those months that the mental battle was harder to overcome than the physical.

I once heard a marathon runner say that in order for him to finish a race, he had to look for outside motivation. Which makes sense why marathoners often raise money for charity. Or, they dedicate their race to a loved one.

As I thought about this I had two verses comes to mind:

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2

And

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:6

So, here are some points I needed to be reminded of when I’m growing weary and feel like I’m not going to finish my race:

1) I can do all things through Christ.

2) I am only required to run my race — not anyone else’s.

3) I am surrounded and cheered on by a great crowd of witnesses.

4) Jesus is a finisher and teaches His kids to finish through His example.

5) What Jesus has started in me, He will finish it.

So, if you’ve ever been told, “You can’t finish anything”,or maybe you’ve said that to yourself, I want to remind you, in your own strength you will fail and fall short. But we have a Father in heaven who doesn’t let His kids quit. He exemplifies what it means to finish and finish well.

What He started He will finish!