This is the time of year I get reeeeally burned out. I’m ready for the research papers, the end-of-year school projects, the extra activities, everything—to come to a screeching halt. You may be in a completely different season of life than me, but I’m certain whether you are a student, a working professional, an empty nester, or …, in some way this message applies to you.
I read a story to my daughter last week about Leonardo Da Vinci*, how sometimes he would work on a painting or an invention for several years, only to struggle with finishing it out (though often he did, thank goodness). He loved creating and imagining, building the plans, then lacked the drive to complete them. Most of the time, his desire to finish was based on how enormous he imagined the idea to be in terms of impact and renown. Wow, oh wow, could I relate to that personality flaw.
When I came across this version of the popular Hebrews 12 verse today, it grabbed the ear of my heart and held on for a good while:
Hebrews 12:1-3 (The Message)
“Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!”
Several things jumped out at me here. “Never quit” as a result of “extra spiritual fat.” The NIV says, “everything that hinders.” Pretty loose interpretation here, but how necessary. What spiritual activities do you engage in that are extra? Mere fluff? What are some of the things you do out of compulsion or legalism or self-righteousness or pride? Hmmm.
“No parasitic sins.” These are not the ones committed accidentally. These are the ones that are eating away at you, infecting you from having your best run ever.
“Study how He did it.” Gotta spend time studying. How did Jesus endure everything He had to endure to get through this life completing His mission? Was He always the first one to sign up for the next availability of service in the temple? Did He stop to meet every person’s need? What did He do, and how does that apply today?
“Because He never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—He could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever.” Thought about where you’re headed lately? Thought about those who might not go along to Heaven with you because you’re too busy to love them or serve them or talk about Jesus to them? Do you let others’ opinions weigh you down? Do your earthly circumstances consume you, keeping you from seeing your future reality? Was His sight on earthly renown or eternal placement?
“When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” Wowzer. This is where reflection, praise and thanksgiving come in. Notice it doesn’t say to go over your own story. It says to go over HIS. Look at what HE faced. Look at what HE endured. Stop, look. Listen. Prepare for a jolt of java-like determination to get you going again.
I don’t know about you, friends, but this worked for me. I’m not only ready to finish out my kids’ school year without having a meltdown, I’m also ready to tackle some other unfinished projects around the house. More than anything, I’m determined to lean in to get to know my Savior better. It is my relationship with Him that matters most. I want to learn His way of reacting to situations, His way of dealing with stupid questions, His way of dealing with Holier-than-Thous. I need to know what kinds of opportunities were important to Him, what kind of people caught His attention. HOW He handled the stress, the insults, the publicity. His mission. And the only way to do that is by fixing our eyes on Jesus first and foremost.
I long for all of us to have His adrenaline shot into our souls, to examine our priorities, our sin struggles, our relationship with Jesus. I pray for all of us to finish strong…blameless, and to take at least one or two souls with us to our final destination. All of this so that we can have an “exhilarating finish, in and with God.”