Friday, June 29, 2012

Finishing the Race - Faithfully

Do you ever feel like the Hare in the story about the Tortoise and the Hare?  Just to remind you...he may have been quick and impressive out of the starting gate, but he didn't finish the race.  I feel like I can get very zealous for things and begin running toward the finish line, only to get exhausted and distracted, stopping along the path in order to rest.  Meanwhile, my passion fizzles, I become bitter and exhausted and my heart begins to change.  That was why I prayed and asked God, "Why do I do this?"

The beginning of this answer began when I was reading Matthew 23:23: 

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former."
Did you catch that?  Jesus spoke these words and He said the more important matters were justice, mercy and faithfulness.  Faithfulness.  That was what I lacked.  How had I missed this? 

I've read this verse many times but never caught that word mixed in there like that.  I was so convicted.  This verse would not let me go - all day it ran through my mind.  I had a check-list going in my head about all the things I'd started and not finished. 

At first, I was overwhelmed with what other people must think of me, but I quickly remembered that it wasn't of my concern what anyone else might think.  I knew God wasn't pleased...and that's all that mattered.  The more I worried about what others thought, the more I lost focus of what He was trying to accomplish in my life through this difficult realization.

I'm thrilled to say that even though this was a hard lesson to learn, it was a good one.  God has shown me why I don't finish sometimes.  He has also reminded me, very mercifully I might add, of all the things I have finished and continue to press toward, faithfully.  I love how He balances things out so I'm not overwhelmed with all I'm doing wrong by throwing in the things I'm actually doing right!

I wanted to share with you what He has shown me in case it might help you in your walk with Him.  If you find yourself unfaithful in certain areas, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What was my motive for beginning the task in the first place?  If your answer is "because nobody else would do it", "because I couldn't say no to him/her", "because I want to be needed" or "because nobody else can do it as well as I can", you're in for some trouble.  The motive for doing something, for serving, for giving of your time must always come from a heart of obedience to what God is calling you to do.  If we want to be faithful, we must be sure that we are walking in His will and doing what He wants us to do, otherwise we are working in our own strength and we will lose heart.  Ask Him to examine your motive before making commitments.  Proverbs 16:2 "People may be pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives."
  2. Did I pray about it and seek wise counsel before deciding to do the task?  Sometimes my biggest problem comes from committing to do something that I've not prayed about or talked with my husband and/or mentor about.  I hear of a need and I jump to fill it because it seems like the right thing to do and I enjoy serving.  I go in with full fervor and then fizzle out within weeks.  Even if things "seem" to be right, we must pray.  You must be in agreement with your spouse and/or seek wise counsel before committing to do something.  Proverbs 12:15 "Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others."
  3. Am I doing this because I think God needs me to?  I think we often subconsciously think "What would God do without me?" When in reality, God is perfectly capable of filling a position!  He is God - He is powerful and He is not desperate for our help.  He gives us opportunities to help, but just like when our kids "help us" in the kitchen, it would probably be easier if He just did it by Himself.  But He loves us and He gives opportunities to help for us to grow, learn and become more like Jesus.  But, just like if our kids tried to do it all, they would quickly become discouraged and overwhelmed, when we try to do it all, we do the same.  My mentor once said "If you feel overwhelmed, you're probably doing something God hasn't asked you to do."  
  4. Did I hurry through the decision making process?  Whew, this is a big one...did you give yourself time in making a decision to commit?  If not, you may have acted hastily.  Personally, I've decided to implement a 3-day period of prayer and counsel prior to making a decision to serve in a specific area.  This gives me time to consider, to calm down from all of my initial excitement and zeal to "save the world" and helps me to slow down.  I have seen, time and time again, that hasty decisions are usually not the right ones.  Slow down, give yourself time, and if the person asking you doesn't grant you the time to pray about it and seek wise counsel, then you probably don't want to work with them anyway.  Proverbs 19:2 "Enthusiasm without knowledge is no good; haste makes mistakes."
  5. Am I being led by the Spirit of God?  This is huge.  If I am being led by the Spirit, I will not gratify the desires of my flesh (Galatians 5:16).  If I am being led by Him and the task is something He wants me to do, I will have the power within me to finish.  I will be given supernatural strength, fervor and determination.  Otherwise, I'm working in my own strength.  We all know that without Him leading us, we will not succeed.  He must be the One we follow.  Not the opinions of others, not the approval of others and not the manipulations of others (including our own selves!).  If you are led by Him, your motivation will be a pure heart-motive that overflows from a love and compassion for what you are doing - not a desire to fill a role or be someone important.  
  6. Am I giving up too easily?  Sometimes we are absolutely called to do something, but then things get hard.  We begin to feel like we cannot possibly make a difference - we are just one person!  But God says our hard work will be rewarded.  He says there is much to be gained by our faithfulness in not only the big things, but the small things.  If you are doing what God has called you to do, you can still find yourself becoming discouraged when things seem difficult or impossible.  Galatians 6:9 reminds us:  "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Ask God for His help to persevere.  Your faith may be tested, but James 1:3 says that will give your endurance an opportunity to grow.  Never, never, never, never give up.  He is faithful, even when we are not.

Psalm 119:29-31
Keep me from deceitful ways;
   be gracious to me and teach me your law.
I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
   I have set my heart on your laws.
I hold fast to your statutes, LORD;
   do not let me be put to shame. 

2 Timothy 2:13
If we are unfaithful, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny who He is.


Donnetta said...

Justice, mercy, AND faithfulness... now there's a combo to think on.

Wonderful (and practical) words of encouragement and wisdom all packed into this one post!

Leslie Nease said...

Thank you Donnetta! :) So true...those 3 things can make or break us.

On a personal note, I appreciate and acknowledge YOUR faithfulness to pray for this ministry! You are a real blessing to us and we know that prayer is, by far, one of the most important parts of this ministry. Love you!!

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