But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God
The value the author of Acts gave to his life was that he finish well the work given to him by the Lord. My ministry is most likely different from yours. The important thing is to know what our ministry is and then to be faithful to it. It doesn’t matter if you are a hand, foot or mouth. What matters is that you are faithful to what you alone are called to do in your own particular time and place. I am called to mentor, teach, counsel and encourage. I want to do that with all my strength. Actually I want to do that with all His strength! Whatever God has gifted you with, wherever He has placed you to serve, whomever he has given you to mentor, we are to do it with all our focus relying on His strength. It does not matter where you are in your journey we have all been given gifts to use for the body of Christ and the world at large. If you are not sure of your particular calling I hope this week you will spend time asking, God is faithful to guide you.2 Timothy 4:6-8(ESV)
6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up 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 loved his appearing.
Steven Cole, Pastor of Flagstaff Christian Fellowship says it so beautifully
“The Christian life is a marathon, not a 100-yard dash. Since finishing a marathon well is not easy, when you see a man who sprints across the finish line, you ought to try to find out his secret. The apostle Paul was such a man. It’s as if he has crossed the finish line with energy to spare. He jogs back to where Timothy seems to be losing steam and exhorts him to keep running well. …..Paul’s words are not those of a discouraged, broken old man. There is no despair, no defeat, no cynicism, and no fear…. His calm assurance is all the more startling when you consider his circumstances. He was in the Mamertine Prison in Rome. Even the worst of our prisons today would be like the Hilton in comparison to the Mamertine. Paul’s cell was a dark, damp dungeon, reached only by a rope or ladder from a hole in the floor above. He had no windows, no lights, no toilet, no furniture, and no running water. Paul had labored for the past thirty years or more to preach the gospel around the Roman Empire, but at this point, it was at best a tiny sect, scattered here and there. …..And yet, the man was clearly at rest, confident in the way he has spent his life, and calmly assured…. “
What gave Paul this assurance? I think it was because he knew he had heard God and lived a life obeying the instruction he had been given. He was also a mentor and he had reproduced himself. We have this same opportunity with our children and anyone God has given us the privilege of influence. Paul saw his life as an offering to God. He viewed his life as a race with a goal in mind and believed he was finishing well. He had kept the faith. He had been entrusted to share truth and had done just that. These things gave him dignity, confidence and great hope. Following our unique calling will do the same for each of us.
So I ask myself am I holding steady, responsive to what the Lord has entrusted me with? Am I disciplined to be faithful? I am reproducing myself?
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
It is work to keep our eyes on the goal so that we do not faint and grow weary. It is easy to give way to fatigue, discouragement or simply wanting to do our own thing. However I noticed that Paul made an interesting point. He seems to clearly understand that knowing the truth and even preaching truth is not enough, we have to live out the truth we share and that takes self-control and intentionality and discipline.
12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, 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,
In his book “The Misssing Ingredient”, Ron Mcintosh states that a hindrance is a non-sinful besetting circumstance or attitude. That includes fear, anger, discouragement, depression, worry, bad relationships or ignorance. This would also include double-mindedness or the biggest one of all-subconscious self-limiting beliefs. Sin includes lust, pornography, adultery, hate, drugs etc.
I think we all understand sins that entangles us, those are usually easily recognizable/ However hindrances are often times much more subtle and often hidden, consequently more difficult to identify and overcome. We can hide fear but internally it is like a huge wall blocking our way forward. Anger often times digs down deep within us and if it does not poison those around us most assuredly poisons us. Anxiety and worry is like a giant rope around our feet preventing keeping us captive. Depression and discouragement is a pit that we can easily fall into not easily escape. The good news is that Jesus came to set us free from both sin and those things which so easily hold us back from living the abundant life He has promised.
Whether you are just starting out in your walk of faith, are in a steady and comfortable run or perhaps in the last sprint we must all keep our eyes on the goal set before us and do all we can to remain on track. My desire is that you are encouraged regardless of your circumstances to keep your focus on that which God has entrusted uniquely to you, to mentor, to serve in whatever capacity you are called. To identify those things that hold you back and seek out God’s promises to overcome them. Doing these things will ensure we not only finish well but live a life in freedom and joy.