Enthusiasm runs high at the beginning of a new project. You can count on it! Everybody is psyched about the possibilities, loving the chance to be a part of the grand opening. It’s getting the thing completed that is so difficult. Real character is shown, not by signing on to start something, but by sticking with it until it is finished. This applies universally through out our lives. Marriage is a classic illustration. Many unions come to a disastrous end just a few years after two wonderful kids exchanged loving vows at an altar strewn with flowers. What happens? The grind of life wears down the excitement. A mortgage, a car payment, and two kids can pour a lot of water on passion’s flames! Facing the drudgery of paying the bills, dealing with bad moods, and discovery of the hard work of keeping a relationship fresh and alive can make a person forget why they said, “I do,” in the first place and soon they find themselves looking for a way to say, “I don’t!”
Ministry service wears us down, too. I hear some people talking about ‘burn out,’ and wonder if that’s just a fancy excuse for quitting when the going gets tough or boredom sets in? It’s not always easy or fun to serve God or others. The fact is that even the called and Spiritually equipped get weary with serving. Showing up to teach a Sunday School class week after week, collecting food for the pantry, mowing the church lawn, leading in worship, going to an outreach, taking boys on a Ranger campout – they are all exciting opportunities for a while, and then they become real work as the ‘newness’ wears off. Does that mean a person is ‘burnt out,’ just because he is not as excited about his place of ministry today as he was a year ago? Or, does it just indicate the ordinary humanness of liking things novel? I get tired of my call, from time to time. I’ll admit to that. There is no doubt at all in my life about the reality of God’s call to full-time pastoral service that He gave to me one Sunday night in the Summer of 1971. And, truthfully, nothing gives me more joy than introducing someone to Jesus Christ and teaching people how to find the rich life of the Spirit. But, there are weeks when I think, “No more! I cannot take another call, face another critic, sit through another meeting, or write another sermon!” The temptation to look for an exit grows strong and creates all kinds of illusions about the existence of some easier place in life, out there, somewhere.
Nobody remembers people who started strong! They remember those who finish well! Those who enter Halls of Fame are those who stick with it, who keep developing their skills, who perform well until the end. So what does it take to finish well? The Word says, “do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:” (Hebrews 10:35-36, NKJV) We need a strong faith, a real confidence that rests squarely on God’s promises of eternal life and heavenly rewards. When we want to quit, it is time to call for a ‘time out’ and to renew our understanding of why we started, what He promises, and what He asked us to accomplish.
Then, too, a good dose of ‘stick-to-itiveness’ is important. We need determination that fires us to say, “I’m not quitting!” and then the stubbornness to put our heads down and go forward. Perhaps endurance is a better word, but endurance and stubbornness are surely first cousins, at least! Some days it is just pure guts that gets us through! The truth is – that’s life. Hebrews tells that when we are weary, we should think of Jesus! He endured the Cross. He dug deep, sweat blood, wept real tears, and felt the cold breath of dread – but He didn’t quit. Isaiah says of the Messiah – “I have set My face like a flint, And I know that I will not be ashamed. He is near who justifies Me; Who will contend with Me? Let us stand together. Who is My adversary? Let him come near Me.” (Isaiah 50:7-8, NKJV) At the risk of sounding flip, I imagine that Jesus took a deep breath, looked Satan, death, and the Cross squarely in the face and said, “Bring it on!” He trusted God’s promise that He would emerge from the dark into glorious Light.
And, from the Cross, He felt the curse fall on Him, knew the work of bearing the sins of the world was done, and He cried – “It is finished!” That was no whimper of regret or self-pity. It was triumphant battle cry that announced His completion of God’s assignment. When I come to the end of my journey, I want to be able to throw my hands up to heaven, like a runner crossing the finish line, and yell – “It is finished, Glory to God!” Let’s stay the course, dear Believer.
And, here is the Lord’s Promise. Ponder it today and take heart from it.
“Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown. All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of my God, and they will never have to leave it. And I will write on them the name of my God, and they will be citizens in the city of my God—the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from my God. And I will also write on them my new name.” (Revelation 3:10-12, NLT)
A charge to keep I have,
A God to glorify,
A never dying soul to save,
And fit it for the sky.
To serve the present age,
My calling to fulfill;
O may it all my powr’s engage
To do my Master’s will!
Arm me with jealous care,
As in Thy sight to live,
And O, Thy servant, Lord, prepare,
A strict account to give!
Help me to watch and pray,
And on Thyself rely,
Assured, if I my trust betray,
I shall forever die.
A Charge To Keep I Have
Wesley, Charles / Mason, Lowell © Public Domain CCLI License No. 810055