A Driving Intensity

A Driving Intensity

An example in the Old Testament of one who was a great finisher is a man named Caleb. Caleb was one of the warriors of God who was with Joshua and the other spies when the Israelites first arrived at the threshold of the Promised Land.

It first did not take them forty years to get to the Promised Land. That may be a surprise to read! They got there quickly and crossed over the River Jordan with a group of spies. The spies came back from the Promised Land with a mixed report. Yes, they said, it’s everything that God said it was, a land filled with milk and honey. They brought back some pomegranates and some really great things – but then they also had a little bit of a scary report:

So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height… and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.” –Numbers 13:32-33

The fear of the giants spread through the camp. Everybody started to grumble against Moses and Aaron, and said, “What did you do bringing us to this land just to get us killed?”

But two other men, Caleb and Joshua, said, NO. It’s ours. It’s a good land. Let’s go—God is with us! While everybody grumbling and whining about the difficulty of the task—Caleb and Joshua showed the character of finishers. So God sent the Israelites to do forty years of laps around the desert.

In the book of Joshua, you pick up back with the story of Caleb again. The Israelites had started to conquer the land under the leadership of Joshua. But they started to falter in their conquest of the land. Things started to get tough and the tougher strongholds of those groups identified by the spies were holding fast. The Israelites could not vanquish them and so they started to give up on these tougher assignments and these tougher jobs—they started to quit.

Caleb was by then 85 years old. Here is the character of driving intensity (This is all found in Joshua 14):

“You know that what the Lord said to Moses, the man of God, about you and me? Back then I was 40 years old when Moses, the servant of the Lord, sent me to explore the land and I brought him back a report according to my convictions…” Hear the character of determination which Caleb manifest; he had convictions, “… but my brothers who went up with me and made the hearts of the people melt with fear. I however followed the Lord, my God, wholeheartedly, with single mindedness.”

“So on that day, Moses swore to me, the land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever because you have followed the lord, my God, wholeheartedly.” Caleb was saying this: Just as the Lord promised, it’s time for me to claim my promise. That’s basically what he’s saying. He’s kept me alive for 45 years since the time he said this to Moses while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am today 85 years old and I’m still as strong today as the day Moses set me up.”

Caleb was as vigorous to go out to battle at age 85 as he was when he was 40. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day!

You heard him. Caleb was a finisher. I love the way the story ends. So Joshua blessed Caleb and gave him Hebron as his inheritance… and there’s this little parenthetical statement at the end of the story here (Now the name of Hebron formerly was Kiriath-arba, Arba was the greatest man among the Anakim.) Not anymore. It is called Hebron, because 85-year old Caleb went up there and defeated the mighty Arba and changed the name! How? Caleb had determination in the strength of the Lord. Give me those hills! Caleb was taking names for the Lord at eighty-five years old!

Do you have a driving intensity like Caleb? Do you yearn to finish what God’s put you on this earth to do! It does not matter how old you are, or how young you are! What matters is that you accomplish your call! What matters is that you have a fire in your bones that says “Give me that hill country!”

A Focused Pursuit: The “It” Factor

A Focused Pursuit: The “It” Factor

Finishing well requires a focused pursuit, or what you might call a vision. Consider Jesus’ phrase:

It is finished

What is the “it” that needed to be finished by Jesus? What is the “it” factor? 

Going back to John 17:4, Jesus says this:

I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.

So what is the “it” for Jesus? The work the Father has given Him to do. Jesus had a calling, a vocation, a task to accomplish. That work would include for Jesus the shedding of tears, stress, denials of friends, bleeding, a passion, an excruciating, painful, and crushing death on the Cross. That was the work that the Father had given Him to do! In finishing that work, He completed a task that would bring redemption and salvation to all the people of the world.

As tough as Jesus vocation was, it was absolutely essential that it be accomplished because if it were not, there would be no redemption, salvation, and atonement for sins. Halleluiah! Jesus could say, “It is finished.”

I want to ask you a very important question. It’s perhaps the most important question you could ever ask yourself with intention to answer. What is the “it” for your life? What is the work that God has given you to do? Do you know? The most important question you could ever answer in your life because if you don’t know what it is—that is, what the work that God has given you to do—you will not be working to its accomplishment and finish it.

Where there is no vision, the people perish… –Proverbs 29:18

If you cannot answer that question you may be leaving the most important thing incomplete. What a sad thing it would be to have died having not completed the work that God had put you on this earth to accomplish!

You might call it single-mindedness. Paul exemplifies this in what he says,

But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. –Philippians 3:13-14

Do we say like Paul: “But one thing that I do” —the upward call of God. I think many of us say, “this is one of the fifty things that I dabble in order to keep myself busy”, but not Paul, not Jesus! The Scriptures do not teach that the key to the Christian life is busyness!

What is the “One Thing” for you? So, if you do not know the answer to that question for you, get to know it. It’s the most important question that you could ask. Ask Him in prayer, “What on Earth am I here for?” And then set your mind on that vision and finish it.

Have you discovered the “it” factor for your life? Again I ask, what is the “One Thing” that you are called to do? What is the race that is marked out for you?

Jesus, focused on the “it”. “It is finished.” You are not finished until “it” is finished!

The Adversary

The Adversary

The evil one seeks to trap you and keep you from being productive in the work that God has called you to do. God is not the only one who has a plan for your life. Oh, we have an adversary, Satan, who has schemes, traps and tricks. He tries to get us off track and prevent us from completing the work that we have been called to do by God.

His primary tool is the temptation of self-sabotage. Remember when the Devil took Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple and tempted Jesus to throw Himself off? He challenged Jesus to take a suicidal self-destructive leap! How many times do we self-sabotage? The evil one does not change his tactics. He is always trying to move us in to self-destructive behaviors. The problem is that we fall for it.

Some of these temptations come in the form of opportunities, actually. They can be distractions. He tries to get you to do things in improper timing. Remember when Jesus’ mother tried to get Him to do the miracle at the wedding feast of Cana and He had to say, “Mom, it’s not the right time?”

When Jesus was very clear with his disciples what He had to do, the work that He had been called to do? When he said “I am going to suffer at the hands of the chief priest and the scribes. I’ve got to go to Jerusalem. I’m going – I’m going to die and then three days later, I’m going to rise from the dead.”

What did His best friend say? “This should never happen to you, Lord.” In other words, “I’ve got some advice and my advice is that you should just call off the Crucifixion. That doesn’t sound like a good idea Jesus.” Those who love you the most can be like that– they’re looking out for you, but sometimes they can take you off task for fear of risk. Jesus threw Peter’s words off instantly.

Get behind me, Satan.

Yes, Peter was a friend, but at that moment, Peter was a friend speaking the Devil’s sabotaging words into Jesus’ life. His words come in the form of human solutions, earthly kingdoms, quick fixes, and even protective concern. Sometimes Satan’s sabotage comes through our own fears, our own avoidance of pain, hard work and struggle.

He is sneaky and tricky and he wants to tempt us so that he can stop us from fulfilling God’s call in our life, and he does it in very subtle ways. The bottom line for Satan is that he does not want us to finish. Don’t ever underestimate him or deny him. He does not want you to finish, he will stop at nothing to stop you!

“Save yourself,” they said to Jesus on the cross. “Save yourself if you are the Son of God.”

Rather they should have encouraged the One running the ultimate race on behalf of all humanity: “If You are the Son of God, finish the work that You have been called to do! Go Jesus, Go!”

The voice of Satan is always tempting and taunting you to quit. How is Satan tempting you right now to give up on the race that is set before you? What are the things that Satan is using, his strategies, the little temptations to sin in your life? What is he doing to distract you from fulfilling your call?

Let the words of James encourages you…

Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. –James 4:7-8

It is finished, not I am finshed.

It is finished—not I am finished

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
–Hebrews 12:1-2

Consider Jesus as the supreme example of a finisher.

Notice that our Lord did not say “I am finished”. Jesus had that pure undivided heart focused on the joy that was set before Him. He would not be hindered by the “sin that so easily entangles,” but rather was able to say in victory:

It is finished.

Jesus demonstrated a focused heart that would not be sabotaged by His own pain, struggle, weakness or distraction. His deep desire was only to please the Father and win the prize.

Paul called a young leader Timothy to have an undivided heart for God like a soldier whose aim is only to please his commanding officer. “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” (2 Timothy 2:4) because Satan wants to capture Timothy to do his will! (cf. 2 Timothy 2:26)

Get rid of all the things that might entangle, especially your own sin.

That’s why the writer of Hebrews describes it as that “the sin that so easily entangles,” it is so easy to get caught up in the weeds of our own untended sin garden. A trait of a finisher is the undivided heart.

How many times have you said: I am finished. I am done. I just cannot do this anymore. I quit.

Having the undivided heart to please only Jesus will free you to see clear to a focused pursuit that never quits. How can you regain that pleases God alone? What sin in your life is so easily entangling your heart? Is it your own sin? Or is it the sin of others? The Lord would hear you say with Jesus: “It is finished.”

Finishing Well

It is Finished

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
–John 19:28-30

On Finishing Well

I want to explore with you the traits of one who finishes well reflecting on Jesus’ words: “It is finished.”

Don Sweating, the new president of Reform Theological Seminary has a pastor’s heart. His dad is also a pastor like he is only his father is in his 80s. Don went to him and said, “Dad, I want you to write a book.” His dad said, “Oh, I’ve written books.”

Don said, “No, you need to write another book”. His dad had written two books already. One was how to begin the Christian life. The second book, how to continue in the Christian life.

Don said, “Dad, you need to write a third book, finish the trilogy: How to finish the Christian life.” Don’s father said: “Well, I already wrote a book on the joy of getting older,” and Don said, “No, that’s not it. It’s a little too self-help.

Dad, you need to finish the trilogy, “How to finish the Christian life.” Don’s father said: “Well, I don’t even have a computer to do any of that and I don’t know how to use them, but I’ll do it.” So they wrote it together, a great little book, called Finishing the Christian Life.”

Americans are not finishers anymore. We used to be. We used to be very strong finishers. We would finish everything that we started. In these last decades even, we don’t finish well. We don’t finish well like we used to and it’s the great generations that understand how to start things and finish them.

Many of us have a multiple projects that we have started and they just keep growing in numbers, projects that we’ve started that is. But, do we finish them? In Jesus, we see a driving intensity. In Luke’s Gospel we read an interesting verse about the resolve of our Lord:

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. –Luke 9:51

Jesus is a person of steel and backbone. He would go to the Cross and complete the work that God had given Him to do. He had a determination to do it. If we are to be a person who finishes, we must be like the Energizer bunny. We just keep going and going and going.

The Apostle James calls it “steadfastness”:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. –James 1:2-4

How do you see the traits of a steadfast finisher in your life? Are you “lacking” anything?