Stubborn or Committed? Maybe I’m a little of both

presson“I’ll give you this,” he said to me, “you are a ‘finisher.’”  His words were a compliment, noting my willingness to hang with difficult tasks until I saw them to completion. Others have seen the same trait of determination in me through a different lens, less complimentary, and called me ‘stubborn.’  So which am I, stubborn or committed? I suppose I am a little of both. How about you?

In a culture where plot lines develop to a conclusion within an hour-long drama,  we look for quick solutions to our problems. For some, the idea that staying with a challenging situation to work for a solution through time measured in years rather than days is incomprehensible.  Yet, the core of the Christian experience is discipleship, following Jesus for a lifetime as the Holy Spirit creates the character of Christ in us. It is not a ‘once and done’ experience. It is not a Sunday only religion. It is a journey!

Eugene Peterson, translator of The Message, a beloved contemporary paraphrase of the Bible, published a little book in 1980 called A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.  Using the annual pilgrimage of the Jews to Jerusalem for Passover and the Psalms (120-134) called the songs of ascent. These songs were music for the road used by pilgrims as they went ‘up’ to the holy festival. They reflect on the nature of life – disappointment, anticipation, hope, failure, and the goodness of God.

Peterson launched the book from a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche: “The essential think ‘in heaven and earth’ is… that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.”  In his pastoral work, Peterson who served a congregation for decades, realized that God’s call was for the long haul, that preaching the Gospel and leading the people of the Lord involved seeing past next Sunday all the way to Heaven!  The work of turning sinners into saints was a long process involving multiple disciplines – repentance, providence, worship, service, help, security, joy, work, happiness, perseverance, hope, humility, obedience, community and blessing.

Christian, we need to pray to grasp that our calling is not to discover a wonderful flash of inspiration each Sunday or to chase down the ‘latest and greatest’ spiritual experience. We need to fall to our knees to declare our desperate need of salvation and rise to face Heaven while we ‘work out our salvation’ day by day, in times of celebration, through dark valleys, with victories and defeats. Along the way we will wrestle with temptation, discover joy unspeakable, become tired, retreat, advance, and always remain committed to a long obedience in the same direction. Sometimes the vision of Jesus and His Heaven will be crystal clear.  And, for days and even months, His face may be hidden by our doubts or fears. Yet, we press on!

The word from the Word today is from those songs of ascent.  Let the ancient voices of those pilgrims echo in your ears as you remember the faithfulness of the God who called you to follow Him to life.

” A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.

From the depths of despair, O Lord, I call for your help.
Hear my cry, O Lord. Pay attention to my prayer.
Lord, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive?

 But you offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you.
I am counting on the Lord;
yes, I am counting on him.
I have put my hope in his word.

 I long for the Lord more than sentries long for the dawn,
yes, more than sentries long for the dawn.
O Israel, hope in the Lord;
for with the Lord there is unfailing love.
His redemption overflows.

He himself will redeem Israel from every kind of sin.” (Psalm 130, NLT)

Be a finisher- for God’s sake!

______________

Counting On God

Well, I’m in a fight not physical
And I’m in a war, but not with this world.
And You are the light that’s beautiful
And I want more, I want all that’s Yours.

Joy unspeakable that won’t go away
And just enough strength to live for today-
So I never have to worry
What tomorrow will bring
‘Cause my faith is on solid rock;
I am counting on God!

 I’m counting on, I’m counting on God!
I’m counting on, I’m counting on God!
I’m counting on, I’m counting on God!
I’m counting on, I’m counting on God!

 And the miracle of Christ in me
Is the mystery that sets me free.
I’m nothing like I used to be.
Just open up your eyes you’ll see.

 Joy unspeakable that won’t go away
And just enough strength to live for today-
So I never have to worry
What tomorrow will bring
‘Cause my faith is on solid rock;
I am counting on God!

Jared Anderson © 2007 Integrity Worship Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing (IMI))
CCLI License # 810055