If you know anyone who writes or who fancies themselves a writer, you will know that one of the hallmarks of either is that they have a hard time finishing their stories. To write a story is a marvelous thing. To build a universe inside your head, to craft characters who are like real people to you, to weave a complicated plot line–all of that takes time and effort. A lot of time and effort, mixed with concentration, dedication and much gnashing of teeth.
Writing is frustrating. And I’m not even talking about the publishing process. Just the act of writing is difficult, and it takes a lot of sacrifice to finish a manuscript. Even if writer starts a new book, you don’t really know if they’ll finish it.
Fortunately for us, God is the kind of author who always finishes what He starts; it just might not happen when we think it will.
Today’s verse is Philippians 1:6.
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
I like to finish things. It doesn’t matter what I’m working on; finishing projects makes me feel accomplished. Maybe it’s my performance-based mentality, but that’s just the way I am.
The trouble with finishing is that it takes a lot out of you. And that’s just finishing, not finishing strong. Finishing strong? That’s something else entirely.
Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament, including Philippians, was an athlete. He loved sports, or if he didn’t, he just talked about them all the time. But one of the most common sports Paul talks about is racing.
I don’t run. My office puts on a Fun Run every year; I don’t think those two words should ever go opposite each other. The only time I run is when there’s a skunk in my yard, and that has nothing to do with fun.
But many people do like to run. If you’re one of them, good for you. And I’ve watched enough Olympic track sports to know that the quick, fast speed of the sprinters is impressive but what really requires the discipline and endurance of a champion is the long races. The 1,000 meter races. The marathons.
Those little sprinters who can run flat out and set ridiculous records are awesome. But have you seen someone in a 1,000 meter race cross the finish line without difficulty? Have you seen someone running a marathon cross the finish line and not be tired?
Maybe it’s happened. I haven’t seen it. Run for any great distance, and you’re going to get tired. And you’ll be tempted to quit. I mean, why not? It’s only a race. Right?
But that’s not the case at all. Anyone who runs competitively knows that there’s more to racing than just “the race.” It’s the thrill. It’s the challenge. It’s the title and the medal and the recognition. It’s the achievement. Even people who don’t race competitively but who still participate in marathons look at it like something to be accomplished. Even if they don’t win medals or endorsement contracts, they want to finish … because it means they’ve finished.
Finishing matters. Anything else is giving up.
People give up all the time. We drop the ball. We walk away from opportunities. We stall out just in sight of the finish line. That’s people. But God isn’t people. God is God. And He always finishes what He starts.
He has started something awesome in all of us. Each of us is a masterpiece He’s painting, a beautiful symphony He’s composing, a complicated novel He’s weaving, a design He’s engineering. Whatever the metaphor, God is working on us. He’s perfecting us every day.
God wants to finish strong in our lives. On the day He brings us home, whether it be by death or by rapture, can we say that we let Him? Yes, God will do what He wants to do; that’s part of being God. But He never forces anything on any of us. We can choose to let Him work in our lives. But we have to choose it.
Don’t kid yourself, though. Letting God work in your life can hurt. He has to strip away the parts of us that aren’t like Him. He has to put us through difficult circumstances so that we let go of whatever we’re holding on to that is slowing us down. He has to remind us that this life isn’t all there is. But through it all, He’s there. He never leaves us. And even when it doesn’t feel like He’s working, you can trust that He is because God is a God who finishes.
So let Him do His thing. But don’t be surprised if your life blows up. And don’t give up when it does. Just hold on to the promise that He never abandons us and remember that He’s writing a story of His own, and He has some editing to do. And if you can hold on, your life will be beautiful, not only to you but to Him and to everyone you know.