FINISHING WELL & HELPS ALONG THE WAY
Having become a Christian whilst being a physical education student at Loughborough University over half a century ago I can testify to the remarkable and life changing partnership between sport and the Christian faith. If ever there was a combination to shatter the sacred/secular divide so incumbent in our society and allow Sunday to merge with Monday, then this is it.
Starting the Christian life well is commendable but no guarantee for the best of finishes. Bob Buford tells us that ‘half-time is the in-between season that occurs at about age 45, plus or minus a few years. It marks the end of the first half and the beginning of the second half. That’s when the inspired words of II Timothy 4:7 kick in and give us a real focus – ‘finish the race and finish well’.
I’m planning to stay on course and run through the tape. Here are some of the motivations that will make sure we keep on track.
Stay close to Jesus and hang loose about everything else
As a physical educationalist in my early years I found life to be full of frenetic activity and constant movement. As I now get nearer Heaven the following phrase frequently occupies my thoughts – ‘life is an awareness of the preciousness of the immediacy of the present moment’. I think I’ve morphed into a contemplative activist and before you think that is an oxymoron then let me explain.
It is important to major on intimacy with God before entering into activity of any kind whether it be spiritual, physical or mental. The latter will only flow strongly when the former is in place. Jesus is the perfect example of this principle where we see the explosive life changing aspect of his ministry always coming on the back of intimate times alone with Father God. The life changing that went on in the town of Sychar (John 4:39) came after he had taken ‘time out’ and drawn aside from the traffic lanes of life in order to key in to God’s plans and purposes.
Preserve margin in your life
This area can be defined as the space between your load and your limit. How often do we push the envelope all the way and leave no space before the edge. That’s when we go into to overload mode. To preserve an uncluttered margin space in our lives will allow room for God and other folk to stroll there and encounter you at your best and spiritually in tune. Reaping to the field’s edge leaves no space for those who otherwise would have experienced blessing in your margin space. Let’s remember that ‘burnt out’ doesn’t send a calling card in advance. It likes to catch you unawares and often when you think you are flying. Adding new responsibilities on top of old ones without ever removing anything usually contributes to this as does accepting invitations on the spur of the moment without due prayer and thought. Wait and process things first. That’s what margin space is for.
Keep an eye open for burning bushes
With our protestant work ethic and love of activity we can often miss God’s plan for our life. That’s where I find the 5 Cs so helpful when big decisions are in the wind – job, location, ministry, relationships etc. None of the five stand alone in determining the route to take but when all of them line up then you can press on with confidence:-
Keep a Journal and list your Dreams
To be tutored by God’s Spirit in the keeping of careful journal notes is a gift to strive for. It helps to trace God’s hand on your life and remind you of His blessings over the years. Just as the Israelites were encouraged to save ‘three quarts of manna’ (Exodus 16:33) in order to have a tangible reminder of God’s constant care, journal keeping also provides a significant remembering process. It recognises the activity and voice of God in your life and helps to train your ears to hear within the inner garden of your life. C. Austin Miles captured this thought in the words ‘He speaks and the sound of his voice is so sweet the birds hush their singing’.
Dreams, which are often a clue to what is going on in our inner life, can also be recorded and reflected upon. We serve a big God who enjoys fulfilling big dreams. In this area there is no limit so record your aspirations together with God’s answers.
Finally, cultivating journal skills over the year shows us where we have come from, where we are and where we may be heading.
Find a Mentor
To seek guidance from those who have travelled further along life’s path than you is really a ‘no brainer’. Give him/her total permission to ask any question and fully check you out. Such openness and accountability provides a relationship between two people for the purpose of spiritual growth. To journey together in the same direction is a shared privilege and enables someone to ‘watch your back’ and with whom you can be transparent. It becomes a key factor in helping you ‘to finish the race and finish well’.
Bryan Mason - Former CSRM European Director