Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Finishing Well

“Yes, I can!” Seven-year-old Lisa shouted at them.

It was summer and another family camping trip was underway. Fifteen cousins provided eleven years’ difference in ages. The hikes we took were designated as either for “the big kids” or “the little kids”, depending on its length and level of difficulty. As you can imagine, the kids themselves did not always agree on which group they belonged to!

We were at Big Sur (on the coast of California) when some of us decided to hike to four- mile creek. Since the mountains made for some challenging trails, the “big kids” didn’t think Lisa could make it, much less keep up. That’s what started the disagreement.

I could see Lisa hesitate a bit, wanting to go but fearful that she may have bit off more than she could chew. Leaving the choice up to her, my only stipulation was that there would be no whining if she went. She decided to go for it.

Turns out that what we thought was a four-mile hike was actually four miles…each way! It was also a warm day, adding to the fatigue factor. Every time we thought that surely we were reaching that creek, we found another bend in the trail and the creek seemed farther away than ever. I was growing tired too.

To her credit, Lisa kept her end of the bargain. When she got tired she took a deep breath, but she never gave up, and she never complained. The anticipation of finishing the hike and proving her cousins wrong kept her going.

Lisa and I may not have been the first ones back to camp. We just may have been the very last ones. But the point was not to beat the other kids, but to finish.

I was so proud of Lisa, and the huge smile on her face told me she felt pretty good about it, too. She didn’t even rub it in that she was right, and her cousins had been wrong.

That day I learned something: there is always a cost to achieving a goal.

As followers of the Lord Jesus, our goal is simple: follow Him. Simple, but not easy.

There is the cost of time. In this fast-paced world we want immediate results, but it takes time to get to know Jesus personally. Time to learn His word and His plans for us (John 5:39). Meanwhile, other things clamor for our attention, making it easy to convince ourselves we’ll get to it at some point. But just like with any relationship, we cannot follow someone we don’t know. And we can’t know Him unless we make time to do so.

There is the cost of energy. While any goal worth achieving is worth the effort it takes to make it happen, we have a finite supply of energy. Usually it’s pretty easy to articulate what our priorities are, it isn’t always as easy to allocate our energy accordingly. Weariness can rob us of motivation; keeping the goal in mind is essential (Galatians 6:9).

There is also the cost of perseverance. Following Jesus can be hard! Sometimes the way seems all uphill. Just when we think we’re there, life throws a curveball and we realize that the road is a lot longer than we’d imagined. Things happen that we never anticipated; ill health, financial worries, relationship issues. Only by fixing our eyes on Jesus can we keep on keeping on (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Like Lisa, I want to finish well, and without whining.

I want my life to honestly reflect this truth…

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.                                                                                                              Acts 20:24

I want to be able to say…

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…                                                                              2 Timothy 4:7-8a

Following Jesus is the goal. Simple, but not easy.

Further reflection:

1. What is the biggest goal you have for your life?

2. What do you think God’s goal for you might be?

3. When you think of seeing Him at the end of your life, which do you think you will wish you had pursued?

Father, there is nothing that matters more than following You. I want that more than anything, but sometimes it’s hard. Please, help me to finish this race well, so that someday I, too, can say that I kept the faith. For Your honor and glory alone. I love You.

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