Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Shepastor: "Determine to Cross the Finish Line..."

Colossians 4: 14-18 (English Standard Version)
14Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. 15Give my greetings to the brothersc at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. 16And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea. 17And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.”
18I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.

Song: “Finish What you started. Make me open hearted. Finish what you started in me…. More than what I could be, make me what I should be. Finish what you started in me.”
The other day I heard the story of a runner who was convinced that he'd completed his final lap and was about to cross the finish line. Lifting his fist, punching the air, he mistook the cries from the crowd as cheers for his victory. He was unaware of the fact that the crowd was screaming at him, trying to let him know that he had one more lap to go. He quit too soon. He finished in 56th place! What an embarrassment. What a dis-appointment! One might say, however, at least he finished.

In our particular text for today, we have an interesting mix of foreshadowing. Foreshadowing is a method by which a Biblical writer uses language that hints at something that will be addressed later – either in this text or even in another segment or book.
While our focus for today is upon verses 17-18; the previous verses eerily lift up Demas and the church at Laodicea. In II Timothy 4:10, Paul says this about his one time missionary companion,

“for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica…”

We don’t know much about Demas, other than he once traveled along-side Paul and helped to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We don’t know what happened to Demas. The only commentary we have on his life is this sad notation – that he, “loved this present world” and deserted his post.

We know a little bit more about the Church at Laodicea. In the book of Revelations, the message that was given to them from the Lord, through John on the Isle of Patmos was…,

Revelation 3: 15-16
15“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth."
God said that the church at Laodicea was “luke warm.” In other words, they could not make up their minds about whether they wanted to serve the Lord, or serve the world. In this text, Paul calls their names and we are reminded of their unfaithful behavior, their indecision, their lack of commitment, their willy, nilly attitude, their sometimes off and some-times off, lack luster relationship with the Lord. Demas and the church at Laodicea are not to be admired or emulated.

But then, Paul turns and says something profound to another individual in the text – Archippus. He says…
17And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.”
18I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.
In so many words, Paul tells Archippas to "Cross the finish line!"
It’s so easy to start out strong, with high hopes, with energy and resili-ence. But so often people start strong, but pitter out before they finish the job. It’s like those wind up toys. When they are wound up, boy they can go so fast, they can climb up hills, they can pass through blocks, they can really go!

But as they begin wind down, they pitter out and then just stop. Some-times we as Christians behave like wound up cars. We start out with such great zeal, such commitment, such fervor, such love for the Lord. But as time passes, some give up. Some stop sooner than others. Some join church one Sunday and you don’t see them again until next year at Mother’s day or Christmas. Some start out so strong, having a mind to walk upright, to love every-body, to support the ministry of the church, to help other people. But then something happens. They get pulled back in by their former habits. They get tired, or somebody makes them angry or they have some major disappointment and they become frustrated, lose heart and hope and give up.

Some decide that they have gotten old and have served in the church long enough, therefore they don’t need to continue working for the Lord. I heard a sermon many years ago by the Late Bill Jones in which he said, “I don’t want to die in shallow water.” In other words, he said, he did not want to have launched out to sea, endured all the hardships and struggles of sailing in rough and rugged waters, made it through all of the tri-als and difficulties of life and as it time for the ship to come into the shore, give up.

The race is not given to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. But to the one that endureth unto the end. He that endureth until the end, the same shall be saved. Paul told Archippus to finish or to fulfill the ministry that the Lord had given him. And then he said something else profound. He said, “remember my chains.” In other words, I believe Paul was saying, “Man, don’t get discouraged, look at what I am going through. If I can hold on, so can you!"

Somebody may have sickness in their body, may have problems in their home, may have struggles so great that they feel like there is nothing left to do but to throw in the towel. But God is saying, “Finish what I gave you to do. Finish your assignment.” The Hebrew writer declared, “Since we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that doth so easily beset us and let us run with patience and grace the race that is set before us – looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despis-ing the shame – consider Him who endured such affliction from sinners against himself lest you be weary and faint in your mind.

When you get weary, just remember that great cloud of witnesses. Those who have gone before us – those who have fought in the heat of the day – those who prayed for us when we didn’t have sense enough to pray for ourselves – those who stood for something when everybody else was falling for anything – those who forgave and loved when we were ready to get into a cat fight – those who sacrificed time, talent and treasure so that we could have the benefit and comforts that we enjoy today – those who died fighting for equality, fighting for civil rights, fighting for a just and right society – remember the great cloud of witnesses that are standing, looking over the banister of eternity saying – come on – you can do, come on, you can make, don’t give up, don’t give in – Finish the race that is set before you!

But most of all, remember Jesus who could have called upon a million angels to come and fight his battle, who could have spoken and the earth would stopped spinning on its axis, who could have cast all of our souls into hell for our sinful ways – But he didn’t. He came in the form of a man, ministered on this earth for 33 years – was despised and rejected, a man of sorrow, acquainted with grief – remember him who hung on Cal-vary – suffered, buried, but rose again. He finished the job that His Father gave him to do.

God is calling for us to fulfill the ministry that He has assigned to our hands. If God has called you to preach – than accept your calling and get on with it. If God has spoken to you and said work in church – be an usher, be a deacon, be a choir member, be a missionary – get up from your stooper – get up and serve like every day is your last.

If God has charged you with being an intercessor for the saints and the "aints," pray without ceasing. I don’t know what your assignment from the Lord is but everybody has an assignment from the Lord. Don’t be found like Demas, having loved this present world and all of the deceptions thereof, forsaking the work of the Lord – don’t find yourself like Laodicea – luke warm – going back and forth, saint on Sunday and aint on Monday. Stand for something or you will fall for anything.

Serve the Lord with your whole heart. Get busy about the work that God has assigned to your hand. If you don’t know what that is – get busy praying and seeking His face for guidance. Serve the Lord and worship Him in spirit and in truth. Finish the work God has entrusted to your hands. Determine to cross the finish line.

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Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

1 comment:

  1. Pastor I am blessed by your gift of exhortation (encouragement) your "prolificness" with an economy of words and your availability. Surely to whom much is given...

    M Frances Manning- Fontaine
    Sr. Pastor/teacher
    New Hope Baptist Church of Hackensack NJ