There’s a quirky movie called Napoleon Dynamite, in which one of the characters, Uncle Rico, continually lives in the past. He’s been out of high school for the better part of twenty years, but he continually talks about how great he was at (American) football, and laments about how things would have been if his coach had put him into the game for the championship.
Uncle Rico is comical because many of us can relate to him. The longer time goes by, the greater we were at such and such a time in the past. I hate to burst the bubble though, because if our finest and most defining moment was in high school, and we’re not still currently in high school, we are utterly wasting our lives. It doesn’t have to be high school, either. It could be college or career or any other time of life. The point is to keep going and continually seek not only better things, but the best things.
This concept got me thinking about racing. I’ve done half-marathons, marathons, mountain bike races, triathlons, even a couple of twelve hour races. People always think of racing in terms of winning, but there are two other aspects of racing people rarely think about. Before you win a race, you must first start, and you must also finish. The Apostle Paul wrote about this when he could see his life was coming to an end. “But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” Notice that he doesn’t say he has won the race. He says he has finished. This is all we’re called to do, because everyone who finishes the race wins.
There is the other side of the coin I’d like to address though, and that is that many never even start the race. They pray to God with tears in their eyes for God to save them, and he does, because his grace is free. But then nothing happens after that. It’s easy to say that by grace we’re saved and leave it at that, but as the book of James says, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!” It goes on further. “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.” Or take Jesus’s own words. “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.”
If we pray for God’s kingdom to come on Earth as it is in Heaven, what we are praying for is that God’s will would be done here as it is in heaven. How does that happen if we refuse to do what God called us to do, or if we believe the lie that all the work was done when the original apostles walked the earth? God calls us not only to be unpolluted by the world, but also, and this is the part that’s often forgotten, to look after widows and orphans in their distress. He calls us to make disciples of all nations. If we are to be like Christ, then we should do what he said he came to earth for in Luke 4, “To preach the gospel to the poor;
to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” It’s time to take hold of the gratitude to God for what we’ve been saved from and let it be an outpouring that flows into a dark and lost world. We are just as broken as the world around us, but God takes that which is broken, mends it, and turns it into something beautiful. It’s time to take that gratitude and love for God, and other men who are made in His image, and turn it into new finest moments. It’s time to not only start the race, but finish it. Let’s not be Uncle Rico, who continually dwells on the past and what could have been. As long as there is breath in our lungs, there is opportunity. If you don’t currently follow Jesus, do so. He saves generously. The point is, life is too short to sit around wasting gifts we’ve been given. If you have wondered about serving God, and wondered about getting involved with missions, consider this your invitation. The time is short, and there’s literally a whole world of opportunities. So get out there are start the race.
Just as a footnote, I’m tempering this word with a counterpoint I wrote about in a previous blog, about when it all becomes about doing. https://southsudantraveler.wordpress.com/2014/12/29/when-the-mission-ruins-the-missionary/