Strong Finish

A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting.

Henry David Thoreau

Ever taken a 30-day challenge? Did it feel like it was three months long? I am involved in two challenges for the month of July that involve different aspects of writing. My first challenge is to finish a revision of my current novel in progress, and the second is to finish setting up my website. I want to end the month strong. I want the satisfaction that comes with completing something, knowing I have done my best.

And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men

Colossians 3:23

The Christian life is made up of seasons with unique challenges and blessings. We move from season to season like a runner completing segments of a race. It is a marathon that requires endurance and perseverance. But, we don’t run this race alone. We have a great cloud of witnesses, past and present, who run alongside us toward the prize.

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2

As we run the race, we need to remember whose name is on our jersey. As Christians we carry Christ’s name, and we shouldn’t do anything that brings Him shame or disgrace. No one is perfect, and we all fall short. God knows our hearts and our weaknesses as human beings, and He is full of grace and mercy when we come to Him.

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:13-14

Like, Paul, I don’t count myself as having apprehended, but I keep trying to move forward by the grace of God. One day we will all cross the finish line, and everyone who finishes gets a crown because Jesus has already won it for us.

So, to finish strong we just need to focus on the next leg of the race and on the author and finisher of our faith. Let’s help each other run the race so that we can hear God say:

Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

Matthew 25:23

Hope Continues

I finished my hope notebook this week. I also finished a couple of projects, so I deemed this Finish it February. My goal is to finish some of my works in progress this month, which include projects around the house, knitting projects, writing projects, and even reading projects. It’s time to settle down and get things done. However, I have realized that one thing should not be finished: hope.

Day 36

24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? 25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it….28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:24-25, 28

We continue to hope with patience because we know that God only wants for us to have the best life. When we join with him in His will for us, then we can know that He will take whatever happens and use it for our good. Sometimes it’s not immediately clear what God is doing and some things we may not understand this side of Heaven, but we can know that He is at work and we can trust Him to handle whatever comes our way.

Day 37

And Joshua said unto them, Fear not, nor be dismayed, be strong and of good courage: for thus shall the Lord do to all your enemies against whom ye fight.

Joshua 10:25

When we hope in God, we don’t have to be afraid. We can be strong and courageous because of His Spirit within us. When we are in His will, he will fight our enemies for us. He never stops fighting for us.

Day 38

But I will hope continually, and will yet praise thee more and more.

Psalms 71:14

Every day we have hope because the Spirit lives within us. When we focus on that hope, then we have more to praise Him for than ever before. Each day we have new reasons to praise Him. Praise also renews our spirit and centers our focus for the day to come.

Day 39

And thou shalt be secure, because there is hope; yea, thou shalt dig about thee, and thou shalt take thy rest in safety.

Job 11:18

Hope is also rest. We can be assured that no matter what is going on around us we can rest in safety in the arms of Jesus. The Lord is able to save us from trouble, but even if he doesn’t, He will go with us through it. We can trust Him with our future.

Day 40

For the final day of my 40 Days of Hope Notebook, I made a picture with all the scripture references. 39 references to why we have hope even in times like these. All we have to do is open up the Bible and we will find reasons for hope.

As my hope notebook project (#Myhopenotebook) comes to a close, my hope does not. I continue to hope because God is not done yet. It doesn’t end until, like the song says, we all get to Heaven. In the meantime, we continue to hope and rest in God’s promises while we wait to see what He will do next. Life is full of ups and downs but it is a great adventure when we live it in this hope: the mystery of Christ within us, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).

The Next Step

 “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.”

(Proverbs 13:12)

I recently entered a couple of writing contests, and I am about to send off a couple of proposals to publishers. I am reluctant to get my hopes up because being a writer, by nature of the beast, means getting rejected on a regular basis. Still, it can be tiring to get up and try again and again. It can make your heart sick, but when you do get published, it replenishes your spirit and the desire to keep working. The result is worth all the work I put forth, but it still requires effort on my part to reach my desired goal.

The book of Joshua tells the story of how the children of Israel have finally left the wilderness to take the Promised Land. The goal is in sight, but there are a long list of opponents between them and the finish line. They start out strong and have great success, but as they move into the land they lose momentum. Maybe the battles were starting to take their toll, or the people lost sight of the goal. So, Joshua tries to fire up the Israelites.

 “And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, How long are ye slack to go to possess the land, which the Lord God of your fathers hath given you?” (Joshua 18:3)

They needed to complete what they had started. This scripture was in my daily reading just as I was struggling with some writing deadlines. Starting a project is always exciting, but the difficult part is to keep plodding through the middle. I realized that if I ever wanted to see the desire of publication come to fruition, I had to keep moving forward. I couldn’t let fear of failure or apathy keep me from my goal. I needed to take the next step, complete the next task, until I finished the assignment.

We all have those days where apathy gets the better of us. There are days when we would rather be a sloth on the couch than a tortoise that moves steadily toward the finish line. On those days we need to stop thinking about all the things that need to be done to reach the goal. Instead, we need to just focus on the next step. If every day we take one step, then every day we are one day closer to the finish line. 

When you find yourself struggling to take the next step, imagine what it will be like when you cross the finish line. Then we will realize that all the days we struggled were worth the effort. So, as you look at the day ahead, what one step can you take toward your goal? Do that. The satisfaction that you get from completing that task will compel you forward to the next one until you see the finish line ahead.

A Little Distance

Distance

Sometimes a little distance is a good thing. Sometimes when you are working on a knitting project or a writing project or in my case both at the same time, you sometimes need to take a break and walk away so that you can get a fresh perspective. However, there is the danger of going from taking a break to procrastinating.

I started working on a revision for a novel over a year ago. I completed the manuscript in time for a writer’s conference, but it was only a rough draft. After the conference, I came home fired up to revise it but it wasn’t long until the “real” world crept in and distracted me. To be honest though, the real reason I didn’t get to work on the revision is that I was overwhelmed because I knew the entire novel needed a lot of work and I had no idea how to go about the process.

In 2 Chronicles, King Asa had won a war against his enemies but Azariah warns him not to be too complacent because there is more work that needs to be done. Verse seven says, “Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall be rewarded” (2 Chron. 15:7, KJV). Azariah points out that King Asa has made progress in the past but urges him to persevere and finish what he started.

It is easy to start a project and then get bogged down in the details. We may get most of it completed and run into an obstacle which requires a break. OfProcrastination Posterten it is hard to get back to that project and finish it. This is true in our spiritual lives as well. God calls us to work in a particular ministry, such as teaching a class or mentoring a younger person, and we start with enthusiasm and energy. However, it is easy to get sidetracked and let the ministry fall by the wayside, or experience failure and decide it was not meant to be. We get tired, so we take a break, but put off returning to the work.

When God calls us, He has a plan for our lives, one that he promises to finish. Philippians 1:6 says, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (KJV). God is faithful to persevere with us, so we should be willing to persevere in what He gives us to do. If he calls us to a ministry, He will be faithful to equip us and produce fruit in due season if we will be faithful to continue the work.

FinishThere are countless stories of people who almost gave up right before their biggest breakthrough. So, if you are struggling to get back on track, know that God has His arm outstretched, ready to help us. We only have to reach out and take hold of His hand. He will give us the strength to finish what He called us to do.