Monday, May 23, 2011

Finish well

(Recently, I wrote a series of lessons on Colossians and wanted to share one with you.)

While reading Colossians 3, verse 17 stood out to me, “Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.”  Tears steamed down my face as I read that for I am a great “starter”!  I begin a hobby at full force buying everything I will ever need and I spend much time learning how to hone my craft making! Somewhere along the way, however, I just quit.  Right now in the craft closet are 3 unfinished scrapbooks, and cardstock, stamps and punches enough to make valentines for my whole city…left there because I just quit.  Obviously, quitting a hobby is not life shattering, but quitting in my Christian life can be detrimental.
Satan doesn’t mind the starting; it is the finishing with which he is most concerned. He was constantly trying to convince Jesus to quit…to go another way.  We see satan’s ploys while Jesus was in the desert, through people’s rejection, and finally in the garden; satan always encouraged an “easier” way. Jesus, however, was given a work from His Father and upon the cross we hear His final words, “It is finished!!!”
There have been times I have just wanted to give up…my cry was, “This is too hard and I am not strong enough!”  Maybe you have been there, too. Paul had been there and I believe in verses 2-6 he is giving the way to finish and finish well. 
The first thing we are to do is “devote ourselves to prayer!”  In the Greek the words, “devote yourselves” mean, “to adhere to or to be to be in constant readiness.”  This is the major key to finishing.  Jesus finished because He demonstrated that His power came through constant prayer! Why do we think we can do the work with less than this?  We often tell people that we are going to pray for them, but do we?   When others are too distraught to pray, we are to stand in the gap for them.  While in a very dark time several years ago, had it not been for fellow Christians on their knees for me, I probably would have quit! Are you devoted to prayer as your major source of strength?
The next thing Paul says we are to do is to “be wise in the way you act toward outsiders.” (NIV) Outsiders, obviously, were those who did not know Christ.  A major result of being devoted to prayer is the discernment gained of what to do in worldly situations. Often we make things harder on ourselves because we speak without His wisdom-- choosing instead to speak what we think is right and using the excuse of “just calling it as it is!” I have a speaker friend, Page Hughes, who offers t-shirts with “Job 13:5” imprinted on it. In looking up this scripture you find the words, “If only you would shut up and let that be your wisdom!” (HCSB) I have had to be reminded of this more times than I care to! Paul had to deal with outsiders all the time, and yet we see those outsiders coming to faith.  Are you walking in wisdom when it comes to those who do not know Christ?
Finally, Paul says that our conversations (NIV) or speech (HCSB) should be full of grace while seasoned with salt. Another way of saying this is “speak truth with love!”  Jesus modeled that for us to everyone he met and while some did not respond well, the world was changed by His very words.  What words comes from your mouth? Are you speaking truth but with love and compassion?  Are people drawn to Christ because of what you have said?
These powerful precepts in living will help us remain faithful and finish well. Yes, the times are hard but consider the words of Augustine:

You say, the times are troublesome, the times are burdensome, the times are miserable.  Live rightly and you will change the times.  The times have never hurt anyone.  Those who are hurt are human beings: those by whom they are hurt are also human beings. So, change human beings and the times will be changed.