Finish It

Finish It

“Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk” (John 5:8).

Life is marked by tension. At seminary we talked about the tension of living between “the already” and the “not yet.” We are already “seated with Christ in heavenly places,” but not yet endowed with “incorruption” and “immortality.” We live with the tension between faith and works, the tension between law and grace, the tension between what is ideal and the reality of everyday life.

I’m in a project and it’s got me thinking about the tensions that mark our lives. I’m installing my own chain link fence. The “How-To Videos” made it look so simple! It ain’t as easy as it looked on YouTube! My next door neighbor (who changes his own brakes and fixes almost anything) laughed hysterically at me with my iPad scrubbing through and pausing online videos to try to figure out what in the world I’m doing. (It’s okay; I laughed with him!)

This fence project has taken me much longer than I had anticipated. Most of the reason it’s taking me so long is the fact that I’ve never done it before. Chain link fence installation is unchartered territory for me.

But I won’t quit. Why not? For one thing, my next door neighbor has a chain link fence just like the one I’m trying to install. So, I know that it can be done. Yes, digging the holes was a challenge because there are all sorts of rocks in the groud. Yes, it has cost me more than I anticipated because I had to buy more than just the fabric. I had to buy line and terminal posts, tension and rail end bands, post tops and caps, wire, gates and latches. Not to mention the tools I had to buy to put this fence together! (A normal handyman would have already owned the tools needed to complete the job.)

If you think about the things that you want in life -- I mean the things you really want -- you’ll probably realize that you’ve run into some tension. Maybe “resistance” is a better word. You believe God showed you the blueprints and gave you the green light. And when you started on the journey you found that it just wasn’t easy.

It is a given that you’ll never have or become something if God shuts the door on one of our pursuits. If God says no, the case is closed. While we agree with that first statement, I believe we are equally convinced that God gives us beings who were created in His image a tremendous amount of latitude and responsibility to cooperate in bringing our God-given visions to fruition.

Jesus asked the man who had been by this particular pool for 38 years in John 5:6 the question, “Do you want to get well?” That’s a loaded question. We would assume, yes. In the context of the story and Jesus’ command that follows, it’s like Jesus ask the man, “Do you really want to get well?” His question implies, “Are you willing to do the work that I’m gonna give you to strengthen you on your way to your healing?” When the man clarified what he wanted, we watched the Lord tie his healing to his physical therapy and exercise plan, if you please. The Bible says, “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Get up! Pick up your mat and walk’” (John 5:8, NIV).

There’s that tension! He had to believe in God for a miracle. But the miracle we all witnessed was contingent upon his “getting up,” his “taking up” his mat and his walking in obedience to the command of Christ.

I don’t think the man’s muscles allowed him initially to just spring up. I imagine that he had to exert some effort to stand for the first time in 38 years. I imagine that his equilibrium had to be reset in order for him to steady himself on his feet again for the first time in 38 years.

God often tells us what we shall be, but it rarely eventuates in an instant. Samuel anointed David as a teenager, but he was 39 before he was crowned as King. Saul who became Paul was called on the Damascus road, but commentators and scholars suggest that it was over a decade before he launched out on his first missionary journey. What’s happening in between? It is the struggle and the tension that is an indispensable part of the outcome that it taking place.

In a society of quick fixes, instant messages, and live breaking news on 24-hour cable news channels, we have to ask ourselves some tough questions. First, do we believe God enough to actually step out in obedience to His command? And just as importantly, do we believe God enough to keep pressing toward the mark even when the journey is more difficult than we I imagined? Will we stay on the road when we hit bumps of ambiguity and potholes of uncertainty?

I believe we give up too soon. On ministries. On marriages. On God-given goals and divinely inspired dreams.

Who told you that it was going to be easy!? Jesus certainly didn’t! He showed us how difficult it was living his misunderstood life and dying what was to His culture and times a most shameful and ignominious death. Remember His lonely suffering in the Garden. Remember His desertion by His closest earthly companions at the hour of trial. Jesus never said it was going to be easy. I read in Hebrews 12:2 that the Author and Finisher of our faith “endured the cross, despising the shame” and He did it “for the joy that was set before him.” He embraced that tension.

Even with God’s blessing and a clear knowledge of His will, I am finding that things aren’t always easy. And I am learning to embrace that tension. Most things worth having take time and effort, from pursuing your dream to write a book, to lose weight, to have a happy marriage. Even in terms of gaining personal victories, there is no Staples “Easy” button!

When you run into a detour sign, don’t quit and go back. Go on and take the detour, but press your way to your destination! My fence isn’t finished yet. But I will finish it. When i drive up and down my street I see that others have finished fences in rocky ground like mine. So I’m determined to finish mine. Guess what else? My goals aren’t all reached yet either. Neither have all my dreams been achieved.  I know, yours aren’t either. Let me encourage you to determine by God’s grace to finish victorious. Yes, there will be tension between the dream you saw and the reality you’re living. That’s okay. That’s life. Look to your left and to your right. You’re not alone. Someone else has overcome too. You’re not the first. And you won’t be the last. Determine to finish and be an inspiration to someone coming behind you. Finish it!


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