Friday, July 3, 2015

Slow and steady wins the race.

Most of us know the story of the tortoise and the hare.

We all know that a race was ran between the two. But, the hare, obviously the faster one, lost the race. Why? Because of his pride and lack of work ethic. He new he was faster than the tortoise. Therefore, he took naps and got sidetracked exploring things. He new he had plenty of time because the tortoise was so slow.

The Tortoise, on the other hand, set his mind and body to the task at hand. He ignored his desire to nap, He didn't turn to the side to explore the wonders around him. His goal was simple: to follow the path of the race and finish his race. He wasn't concerned about what the hare was doing. He had no control over that. All he had control over was his own actions. He didn't let his environment influence him. He didn't let his lack of talent influence him. He didn't let his opponents obvious advantage hinder him. He just set about his task and finished the race.

When the terrain became rough, he kept going. When the path led up a steep hill, he didn't stop. When the path was wet and slippery, he slowed and made his steps sure- but he continued. Everybody was amazed that the tortoise won the race: except the tortoise.

The Bible is replete with people who imitated the hare. They were flashy. People were in awe of them. But their end was not like the beginning.

Samson's strength didn't win him a prize. Sure he defeated thousands of Israels enemies, but he still ignored God's instructions for his life (Num. 6:1-8, Judges 13:4-5). He lost his hair, his strength, his family, and ultimately, his life. Many say he died right with God because God gave him back his strength. Yet, his prayer to God was anything but repentant. He wanted his strength back to kill his enemies and take vengeance. There was no reaching out to God.

Solomon started out extremely well. He asked for wisdom from God, instead of riches and power. He built the great temple of God in Jerusalem. His wisdom became world renowned. He even expanded Israels territory all the way to the border of Egypt. He knew peace all his early days. But, he failed to follow the instructions for Kings that God had given to Moses (Dt 17:14-20, 1 Kings 10:14- 11:43). And when God judged him and pointed out his replacement (for 10 of the tribes, at least), rather than repent, he tried to kill his replacement. No repentance there.

Judas started out as a devout and chosen disciple of Jesus, but he ended up being a thief and a betrayer. He hung himself and died. No repentance there.

There were others, though, that were more like the tortoise. They may have come from humble beginnings, but they finished well.

Abraham was 75 years old before he began to follow the Lord. Though he stumbled some along the way, he still remained faithful to God and finished his life still looking for a city who's builder and maker was God. God called him the father of faith. He finished well.

Paul was at first called Saul. He persecuted the fledgling church and was responsible for the torture and death of many, many Christians. But, when the Lord got ahold of him, he left behind his former life and titles and became the greatest evangelist of all time and was used by God to write 2/3 of the New Testament. He finished well.

John Mark started well, but buckled under the pressure. It was a dispute over him that caused Paul and Barnabus to stop traveling and preaching together. Yet, he must have changed his attitude. For Paul, in a later letter, asks that he be sent to him as a help in the ministry: And the Lord used him to write the book of Mark in the New Testament. He finished well.

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of seeing flash in the pan Christians go by the wayside. "The next hot young preacher" more often than not, fails and disappears in the long run.

I'm also tired of knowing that I have failed God too many times. I used to be one of those "next hot young preachers" in some folks eyes. But, I faltered and went chasing down too many rabbit (hare) holes.

However, God tells me I don't have to end my life that way. Like John Mark, I can change my attitude (and I have). I can become like the tortoise and simply follow the path the Lord has lain out before me. It's not a matter of being well known. It's about finishing the race. It's not about seeing the Lord move large crowds through "my ministry." That would be nice, but I've learned something simple and profound:

IT'S NOT MY MINISTRY. IT'S HIS MINISTRY. I'm just a vessel for him to use at his will.

My job is to continue the race, at the pace that's needed, and just be an available vessel for his use.
I may never again preach to a large crowd. That's ok. I may never again sing and see people moved in the Holy Ghost. That's alright, too. I may never write another word. It's not up to me. Because I learned that he's in charge and slow and steady wins the race. Hard times are here and will get worse, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. I want to finish well.

As long as I am available for God to use, he will use me for whatever purpose he chooses, when he chooses and how he chooses. He's the potter and I'm the clay. I have no right to demand anything of him. My job is to walk on, to fight on, to pray on, to speak when he says, and shut up when he doesn't- until he calls me home and tells me "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

When my days are over, I want to be able to say:

2 Timothy 4:6-8King James Version (KJV)

For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

Or, in other words: Slow and steady wins the race.

So, here I go. Wanna race?

On your mark.
Get set.