Something I’ve observed over the years is that people have a significant problem with finishing. It especially shows up in the middle of January.
Whether it’s finishing a workout plan, finishing the diet, or finishing a complete can of pop (says every mother who has paid for a graduation party), we never seem to finish quite as successfully as we start.
New workout clothes get me on the treadmill.
A freshly opened can of paint invigorates me.
But five minutes into that workout or painting the trim can steal every bit of joy right out of me and leave me wishing somebody else could do the task in front of me.
Ministry can be like that.
We all step into ministry with fresh eyes, fresh ideas, and a fresh spirit filled with God’s heart for a people or place. It’s only when you have to get up each day and grind out the dream that you begin to feel the struggle.
My husband and I have lived in the same place and led the same church for over twenty years. We thought we understood what it took to persevere, plant seeds, and faithfully keep the vision of God’s heart alive for our church.
And then, recently, we hit a wall. Actually, we hit several walls.
Our church building began to fill up. Isn’t that what we all dream about? We added a second service. Next, we added a Saturday evening service which reshaped our weekends and forced us to let go of the idea that Saturday really belonged to us.
Our mid-week service exploded until there were kids and prayer groups in every corner trying desperately to help people. When we hit these walls, we asked God what to do and the answer, while obvious, was unnerving.
“Plan for the next generation.”
It was time to build.
I confess that old selfish nature rose up inside of me again.
Doesn’t that sound silly? But pastors are humans, too. Sometimes we face a wall and we have to count the cost of moving it or we can be very embarrassed with how we finish. Fear can drive us, comfort can lure us, and safety can make the cost seem too great so we leave it for somebody else to finish.
Sadly, God will find somebody else, but then we miss out on the joy of finishing. Finishing means watching those seeds grow into fruit, and fruit grow into trees.
The past twenty-plus years of ministry has taught me that finishing is worth it and there is always a cost if we don’t.
Jesus told us to make sure we count the cost. Not just the cost of ministry, but the cost of following Him.
Laying down our lives for the souls of people.
Living with the end in mind.
Being inconvenienced for the convenience of the gospel message.
Letting go of our expectations to allow room for God’s expectations.
Sacrificing so the next generation can hear.
David knew he wasn’t the one to build the temple. (1 Chron. 28:3) God had left that job for his son, Solomon. But David knew his responsibility was to prepare his nation and his son for the task ahead because it would be great. They would sweat, they would become discouraged, but if they were strong and did the work, God would give them success. So David went to work preparing, gathering, and charging Solomon in front of God and in front of the people.
The good news was in the promise that came with that charge.
“Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished.” (1 Chron.28:20)
The same God who helped them defeat a giant with a quick victory would help them find victory in the daily grind of building His temple.
David’s God was calling Solomon to step into his destiny and He was using David to do it.
How well will we finish? Will we reach out and call the next generation to step into their destiny?
Ministry can be hard, but harder than the daily cost of ministry is living life with the disappointment of not finishing the work God has given us.
Not preparing the next generation because we thought it was too hard.
Getting to the end and seeing the lives of people we could have served, but didn’t.
Stifling the gospel message, because it was inconvenient.
Serving our expectations and finding our joy and fulfillment strangely absent in the end.
So here in the middle of January, go against the grain. Push through the hard. Be strong and do the work knowing God will never fail us or forsake us until we are finished.
And whatever happens, don’t quit. The end of something is always better than the beginning.