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).
Both Jesus and the apostle Paul 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!
I want to be JesuShaped so that I can know I have finished God's work for me when I've come to the end of my life. How about you?
Years ago, a friend 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:
At the end of most days, many of us have more to do than time to do it. Put into cornbread English, we've got more bread than we have peanut butter to spread. There's not enough for us to go around to cover all of our interests and commitments. Bottom line: Each of us needs to address how we can best use our time to maximize our impact for God and good. Otherwise, our opportunities and time both slip away from us. So...
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 and prioritize everything else?
In Jesus' interaction with a man with leprosy, he provided us with a great example of living for God's purpose and still touching individual people with grace (Mark 1:35-45).
Jesus had to walk away from some opportunities to help and heal people to accomplish God's purpose for his work with the most people. The Lord didn't walk away from people because he lacked compassion or wanted to avoid them. Instead, he moved on from a few opportunities because he always sought to accomplish God's greater purpose for his life.
Jesus refused to reach for significance based on the acceptance of the mob. Go back and read the four gospels and notice Jesus' reactions and interactions with the crowd. While he cared deeply about human hurt and people's needs, he knew hurting people were everywhere. He also knew the crowds were fickle and selfish. The Lord had a mission to accomplish. Finishing that mission would help the most people, do the most good, and leave a lasting impact. So, Jesus repeatedly chose to live for God's purpose.
Notice how Mark described the events surrounding Jesus' compassionate interactions with the man afflicted with leprosy:
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).
Notice that 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 an ostracized 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.
Second, they were surprised that he was no longer hungry when they returned even though he hadn't eaten anything.
Jesus explained what he was doing and how he was choosing what to do with these words:
"My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work" (John 4:34).
We shouldn't be surprised at Jesus' focus on living to "finish" the Father's purpose for him. At the beginning of his ministry, the Lord refused Satan's temptations to use his power for his own benefit. He rebuked Satan three different times for trying to derail his ministry from accomplishing God's purpose for him (Luke 4:1-13):
- Jesus refused to preserve his life by using his miraculous power to satiate his 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. But if I am going to have that kind of effect on people, then like Jesus, I must live the Father's purpose for my life. I can't take shortcuts, create a reputation for myself, or try to win the popularity of the crowd. I must seek to know and live the purpose of God for my life!
We face hard choices about spending our time each day. So, we must ask ourselves hard questions if we are going to follow the examples of Jesus and the apostle Paul and finish the work God has given us to accomplish:
- How can I decide what is essential and what is momentarily urgent?
- How do I properly decide what is a good investment of time and energy versus a bad one?
- What is merely a GOOD use of my time versus the purpose-centered "GOD-use" of my time?
These are essential determinations that require centering ourselves in God's will and his purpose for our lives. That's why Jesus spent time at the beginning of most of his days in prayer.[PRAY] If we are going to honor God and live out our purpose, then must follow Jesus' example centering prayer.
A considerable part of the battle is to recognize that the Father has a specific purpose for our lives from the moment of our conception (Psalm 139:13-16). Thankfully, we are not left to our own wisdom to know this purpose. Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us as we seek to live the Father's purpose (Ephesians 5:15-21; Romans 8:9-17; Galatians 5:22-26). So as we pray, we can ask the Spirit to give us wisdom and discern God's specific purpose for us (James 1:5; James 3:13-18; James 4:1-3). This wisdom enables us to make Spirit-led decisions between good use of time, a waste of time, a desire to be accepted, and completing God's purpose for us.
Prayer and Spirit-led wisdom are essential. Much of what we naturally choose to do each day is based on our self-interest:
- 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?
- Will this get me a lot of attention on social media?
Asking God to help us know and live his purpose sets us on another track, entirely. We can center our lives on our mission. We can say, "No!" to the crowds' demands on us and for us. When someone like the man with leprosy is in our path, we can respond with grace and compassion because we are living God's purpose based on God's timing. Then, we can refocus and return to our God-ordained mission after serving others:
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."
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 will you start intentionally living your life based on the Father's purpose for you?
Let's begin each day in the Father's presence, in prayer, asking for the Spirit's guidance and 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 or selfish desires. Instead, I need your help to live 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.
Finding Jesus' Heart for Ministry Series: