by Cynthia Wilbur
by Cynthia Wilbur
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7
This is the time of year for celebrations! In late May and early June, schools release for summer break. We get invitations to graduations, and we make plans to attend weddings. We often think of these events as benchmarks or as the finish of something important—a school year, a degree program, or even (in the case of a wedding) the end of a certain season of life. We congratulate people on their achievements. We have end-of-year parties for elementary school. We have graduation parties for students who have finished high school or completed a college degree. We even have bachelor/bachelorette parties and wedding showers to celebrate the end of “singleness.”
We as a culture equate success with completion—with finishing. We want to check off all the boxes on our To-Do lists. We want to hurry up, get done, and get on to the next thing. We celebrate achieving our goals. We even use this idea as a euphemism in eulogies to denote someone who has lived a full and worthwhile life. “He finished well,” we say. Meeting our goals is important.
The idea of “finishing well” is found in Scripture, but it is almost always tied to the broader idea of perseverance. Perseverance still has a mind to achieving goals and finishing well, but the focus is not only on the ends, but also on the means. We are called to “run with endurance the race set before us,” always looking to Jesus as our Guide and Motivator (Hebrews 12:1). God is concerned with our end destination surely, but He is also concerned with the journey we take in getting there, and our continual growth along the way. Taken from another perspective, the end of one thing is often just the start of something else. So, it is with the Christian life. Once we come to salvation in Christ, our old life ruled by sin is over, but our new life with Jesus has only just begun (Galatians 2:20). How disappointing if we treated our relationships with our spouse or our friends the way we often approach our relationship with Jesus! This year, my husband and I are celebrating our twentieth wedding anniversary. If our relationship had never matured beyond our wedding day, we would set a horrible example to anyone else looking to get married. However, we as believers often view our relationship with Christ in just this way. We assume that since our eternal destiny is secure, the best part about being a Christian has already been checked off of our proverbial To-Do list. That is no different than assuming that our wedding day is the best part about being married! Once a wedding ceremony and reception are over, we wave, cheer, and throw flowers to send the happy couple off to start their new life together. After a profession of faith, what do we do for the new believers in our midst? What do we do for ourselves?
As believers in Christ, we have the assurance of an eternity spent in God’s presence, but we also still have the here-and-now on this side of eternity. Christ came not just to save us for the next life, but for this life as well. We are called to evidence the reality of our new life in Christ by demonstrating the fruits of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). These allow us to live with one another, loving people as Jesus loves them and as He loves us. We learn to properly acquire and appropriate these fruits through the power of the Holy Spirit in us—through studying and meditating on Scripture, through prayer, and through fellowship with other believers. How we go about living life, day-after-day, year-after-year—especially how we live as a part of the families and communities where God has placed us–has a direct influence on our ability to spread the Good News of God’s kingdom. Despite our different histories, different accomplishments, different seasons of life, and the different ways we come to saving faith, we are called to live in unity with one another, living lives worthy of Christ “standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27).
Striving is not easy, nor is it quick. Loving and serving God by loving and serving other people is not a mere once-and-done task to be checked off of our To-Do list. Remaining faithful to the gospel is not for the faint-hearted. The Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint. Better still, the Christian life is not just a set of responsibilities; it is a relationship, both with our Savior and with the rest of mankind that he made in His image. Our goal as followers of Christ is not just to finish well—we are called to live well, too.
By Cynthia Wilbur