Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Finishing Well - J and J

J and J (the couple embracing on the front row in the group pic from last summer) are leading in East Asia. I really don't know how they are doing since I haven't heard from them.

They are the last pair of leaders to highlight so I don't have anyone else in the hopper. We will just have to assume they are alive and well. I could make up something like it turns out they were not really STINT leaders but plants sent by the East Asian government to see what we were up to. J and J to their right and left in the picture sniffed them out and exposed their evil plot. Or like Demas, they loved this world, have deserted us and gone to Thessalonica. No, I am sure that they just have added to me to their Junk e-Mail list or something.

Actually right before Paul wrote about the deserter Demas, he wrote this to Timothy...

I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. 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—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. II Tim 4:6-8

Paul was writing of course about a departure from this world and not just the end of a STINT. Though I guess since we are aliens and strangers in this world and our citizenship as a believer is in heaven and not US, Canada or Barbados and this life is a vapor, then life is a STINT and Paul was writing about the end of his STINT.

Your STINT year in the country where you are (no matter if this your one shot, year two for you, or you are reupping for another year or longer as ICS) is merely a mile marker on the course set out before you. It's a marathon not a sprint. This is just one round in a long fisticuffs battle.

Paul writes that he fought the good fight and finished the race. Earlier in I Cor 9, Paul says that we 'compete' for an eternal crown. He says that therefore he does not run like someone running amok nor does he fight like someone just flailing their arms. He has a purpose. He makes his blows count. Then he writes this, "I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize."

Paul took the battle seriously. He took every thought captive to the obedience of Christ... every thought. He knew the battle was not against flesh and blood. He put on the full armor of God every day. He didn't drop his guard because he knew the enemy was ready snuff him out. He didn't think, "Hey I wrote most of the NT. I'm all that and a bag of chips. I can coast."

This phrase about 'having preached or ministered to others and then myself being disqualified' is sobering to me. Actually it scares me spitless. I am not immune to this. You aren't. None of us are.

I recall Howard Hendricks speaking on this verse to staff 10 years ago. He said when you look at scripture very few men and women finished well. (Unfortuantely, I don't recall the exact number he gave but it wasn't a lot.) The pathway to the end of the race is strewn with fallen leaders.

Dr. Hendricks said that his students one year asked him to bring in people who had walked with God for a long time so they could probe them for their secret. So he got a bunch of of older faithful men and women to address his class. One guy they had to wheel in. What they said was not anything profound. It was the basics: daily they made sure Christ was in control acknowledging their desperate dependence on Him, daily they spent time in the word memorizing and mediating on scripture and they put made sure they were in a community of other believers where they were not isolated. (I called my dad who has been in ministry over 50 years asked him to give his secret and it was pretty much the same thing.)

While its not profound, I guess it is profound. It's profound that we think there is something greater we need: some great knowledge, some degree to hang on the wall, some great success. When its about Him and our desperate need for Him.

Something subtly creeps in to rob of of that reality that we need Him and need to be in communion with Him and others. We get lazy. We think we can rest on our laurels. We forget we are in the battle. We get weary. We let the enemy gain a foothold. We don't persevere. We don't trust and obey. We try to go it alone. We think its about us.

I want to finish well. I don't want to check-out. I don't want my life to be a warning for others. I want to rededicate myself to the basics... to basically acknowledging how weak and vulnerable I am and how I desperately need Him. I do. I desperately need Him. I don't want to be disqualified. I want to finish well.

May we all finish well.

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