AN UNFINISHED LIFE
Is there anything more tragic than an unfinished life, a life that had a great foundation, but never was brought to completion? At a time where the news channels keep a death count of the pandemic, we reflect on what could have been. Where was their faith? There have been so many people who have started strong in their faith. You probably know friends that have started so strong throughout your life. They were impacted by the Gospel, convicted of their sinfulness, and wanted to start brand new with God. God gave them that start, but somewhere along the way, they became sidetracked and the spiritual life they could have had, the possibilities in their walk with God, sits unfinished in a vacant field, as it were.
Finish. Billy Sunday was a pro baseball player in the early 1900’s who became one of the most famous preachers of his day and laid the groundwork for the Billy Graham Crusades. Billy Sunday said, “Stopping at third adds no more to the score than striking out.” It doesn’t matter how well you start if you fail to finish.
In basketball, we often hear the announcers say regarding a great play, “Look at the finish.” Perhaps, a player just made a great defensive steal and sprints down the court and then finishes the play with a powerful dunk. He is said to have “finished” the play. If the player would have stolen the ball, went the distance of the court, and then clanged his dunk off of the back of the rim, they would have said, “Great steal, but he never finished.”
Throughout our high school years, there was most likely at least one person that passed away from our class. We view that life as unfinished, wishing her or him could have done more in their short life. Finish. I know there are times when we all feel like a “spiritual drop-out.” But, don’t stay there long. Get back into the game. (I apologize for all the sports references; I guess I miss it.)
Is there anything more tragic than spending your entire life fighting all the wrong battles, leaving the most important battle of all unresolved – the battle of Who is going to rule and reign over your heart? Many people have the time to reflect now, on who they are, what they really believe, Who they really follow. So often the things we thought were important aren’t when our health is on the line. This was the problem that the religious leaders had in Jesus’ day. They were so busy fighting battles of tradition, trying to win an argument, or trying to pull Jesus down so that the people would not follow Him, that they missed the greatest opportunity of a lifetime. They were willing to make great sacrifices for things of no lasting value. Some of us are tempted to go to battle over marginal issues. Don’t do it. You’ll be tempted to give yourself to lesser, even destructive things, rather than fully devoting yourself to following Jesus. So many people, even Christians, have destroyed their lives because they chose to engage in the wrong things. It is times like this when we find out what really matters.
I think it’s possible to be a believer and not follow Jesus and His teachings. I know because I’ve been there. My faith in Jesus as Savior is rock solid as it is for many people. But, my dedication to His Lordship, that is, to what He taught and the lifestyle He advocated has lagged at times. Jesus talked in Luke chapter 14 about how everyone is invited to come to the banquet of salvation. It’s freely offered and freely received. We don’t have to count the cost for salvation because Jesus already did that. But discipleship is a different matter. It is costly. Discipleship is not an invitation to a Sunday School picnic. It is an invitation to spiritual warfare over a long period of time. And the good news is that we’ve got the resources to do the job. God equips us with spiritual tools and most of all, the Encourager, the Holy Spirit.
But to be a fully devoted disciple of Jesus, you must start, continue, and finish. I want to put emphasis on the first of these…making a start. You need to make a start. An Old Chinese proverb says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” The first step you need to take is salvation. Carl Bard said, “Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.” Have you started your Christian life? Then why not now? You must continue after making the start. You must finish. The time is now. The person concerned is you, just as you are. The discipleship demand is everything.
Back when communism reigned in Russia, stories from the underground church would surface from time to time. On Sunday, one particular group of believers would gather for worship. They would arrive throughout the day so as to not arouse suspicion by KGB informants. By dark, they were all inside, windows closed, doors locked. They began by singing a hymn quietly, when suddenly the door was pushed open and in walked two solders with automatic weapons, demanding that they all line up on the wall. One shouted, “If you wish to renounce your commitment to Jesus Christ, leave now!” Two or three left quickly. After a few more seconds, two more. Finally, a couple more slipped out into the anonymity of the night. After a few moments of complete silence, the soldiers closed and locked the door. They said, “Keep your hands up…but in praise to God. We too are Christians and we have learned to not trust anyone who is not willing to die for their faith.”
Knowing and following Jesus Christ should cost you something. He is asking for a real commitment. If you’re committed, your life will look different. The push is coming to shove in our world now, how are you being viewed? How does your family, your co-workers see you at this difficult time? Don’t let the foundation you’re building crumble. Don’t be an unfinished life. Robert Frost wrote: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” – Which road will you take?
Think through the questions below. Maybe even gather some friends online on Facetime or Zoom and make it a group thing. Move through these questions together.
- Has following Jesus ever cost you something? Think of sometime specific.
- Read Luke 14:26. How does this verse impact you?
- Have you ever had phases of your life where you felt like a “spiritual-drop-out?”
- Have you honestly and objectively taken your life’s goals before the Lord for His approval?
- Do your goals feed your ego more than they honor the Lord?
- Are you really willing to change your goals if God were to show you that you should?