Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit (John 19:30).
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7).
The Lord Jesus and the apostle Paul both reached the end of their lives and could say that they had "finished" the work God had given them to do. Don't you find that remarkable? I do!
Years ago, a friend once taped a cartoon on my office door. The cartoon showed a guy with the hair on his head standing straight up and had this caption:
The Lord only gives us a certain amount of work to accomplish in a lifetime. At the rate I'm going, I will need to live to be 139.At the end of most days, many of us have more to do than time to do it. The way I like to say it is this: "I've got more bread than peanut butter to spread!"
Each of us needs to address the issue of how best to use our time. Otherwise, opportunities and time both slip away from us. So, how do I choose the best instead of the good? How do I invest my time in things that matter most and not just in what appears to be most urgent? If I am going to impact the lives of people who hurt and need grace, how do I choose what I will do first?
In Jesus' interaction with a man with leprosy, he gave us a great example of how to live for God's purpose while still touching people with grace (Mark 1:35-45).
To do this, however, Jesus walked away from an opportunity to help and heal many people. He did walk away from them. Not because he didn't care for them or because he wanted to avoid them. He walked away because he was always seeking to accomplish God's greater purpose for his life. He refused to be tempted to reach for significance based on the acceptance of the mob. While he cared deeply about human hurt and people's needs, he knew hurting people were everywhere. He had a mission to accomplish. Accomplishing this mission would help the most people and do the most good. So he chose to live for God's purpose. Notice how Mark describes the events:
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: "Everyone is looking for you!"
Jesus replied, "Let us go somewhere else — to the nearby villages — so I can preach there also. That is why I have come" (Mark 1:36-38).
On another occasion, Jesus was tired, thirsty, and hungry. His disciples left him by a well outside the city. While they were gone into town, he ministered to a woman who came by herself to draw water from the well (John 4:4-42). When the disciples returned, they were startled by two things. First, they were startled that Jesus, as a Jewish teacher, would talk to a woman — especially a Samaritan. Second, they were surprised that he was no longer hungry when they returned even though he hadn't eaten anything. Jesus explained to them:
"My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work" (John 4:34).The woman with whom he visited had led many of the village to faith in him.
We shouldn't be surprised at Jesus' focus on living to accomplish the Father's purpose for him. At the beginning of his ministry, the Lord refused Satan's temptations to minister using his power for his own benefit. He refused Satan three different times (Luke 4:1-13).
- Jesus refused to preserve his life by using his miraculous power to satiate his own hunger. He would not turn stones into bread to feed himself.
- Jesus refused to worship Satan in order to receive the authority and splendor of all the world. Satan was offering him the hearts of humanity with the cost of the cross!
- Jesus also refused to gain a name and a following for himself by doing the spectacular to win the fascination of the crowds. He wouldn't test God by throwing himself off the highest point of the Temple.
I want to serve others. I want to have an impact on their lives for Jesus.[IMPACT] If I am going to have that kind impact, then I must live the Father's purpose for my life rather than trying to win the popularity of the crowd!
We face hard choices about how to spend our time almost every single day. We must ask ourselves some hard questions if we are going to follow Jesus' example:
- How can I decide what is important and what isn't important?
- How can I properly decide what is a good investment of time and what is a bad investment of time?
- What is just a GOOD use of my time versus what is the GOD use of my time?
Jesus spent time at the beginning of the day to center himself in the Father's will in prayer.[READPOST] We must follow his example. In addition, we are promised that the Holy Spirit will help lead us and guide us as we seek to live the Father's purpose (Ephesians 5:15-21; Romans 8:9-17; Galatians 5:22-26). A huge part of the battle is for us to recognize that the Father has a purpose for our life from the moment of our conception (Psalm 139:13-16). Then we can begin to ask for the Spirit's help to have the wisdom to discern what is for God's purpose (James 1:5; James 3:13-18; James 4:1-3). This way, we can make a Spirit-led decision between what is only good, what is a waste of time, and what is driven out of a desire to be accepted by others.
If we are honest, so much of what we choose to do is based on our own selfishness. Will this make me happy? Will this make me popular? Will this make me feel fulfilled? Will others think better of me because I have done this? Taking time to ask God to help us know and live his purpose for us sets us on another track. Then, as we go about living out that purpose, we can say, "No!" to the crowds. We can focus on our mission. Then when someone like the man with leprosy is in our path, we can respond with grace, compassion, and care knowing that we have done the work of Jesus in the life of a person who needs his grace:
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: "Everyone is looking for you!"
Jesus replied, "Let us go somewhere else — to the nearby villages — so I can preach there also. That is why I have come." So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, "If you are willing, you can make me clean."If we are honest, so much of what we choose to do is based on our own selfishness.Jesus was [deeply moved]. He reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed (Mark 1:35-42).
So when are you going to start intentionally living your life based on the Father's purpose for you?
Let's begin each day in the Father's presence asking for his help:
O Father, help me decide what to do today based upon your purpose for my life. I ask for the Holy Spirit to lead me as I make my decisions throughout this day. I pray that my choices will not reflect my personal preferences nor my selfish desires. Instead, I need your help for me to live out your mission in my life. I ask that others glorify you because of what I do this day. May the glory be yours, not mine, I pray, in Jesus' name. Amen.
[IMPACT] This post is the third part of a series focused on learning to touch the broken and impact their lives in ways similar to Jesus' ministry to the man with leprosy (Mark 1:35-45). Here are the six parts in the series and links back to those posts:RETURN]