Friday 17 July
On the final day of Sligo15, Greg Venables spoke about "finishing the race". Here VOX editor Ruth Garvey-Williams brings you a summary of his message.
Turn to 2 Timothy 4: 7 - 10. Paul is in prison. It is not a nice prison with a TV set and a bar! He is chained and any minute now he will be taken out and executed. He is thinking, not of himself, but of Timothy and the others would have to carry on the work. Paul wasn’t worried about dying because he had already died on the Damascus road. He was concerned for those who were thinking, “What is going to happen now.” Paul wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith..."
You will notice how wonderfully the teaching in the morning and evening this week has dovetailed together, like a jigsaw. That is not because we coordinated it, it is because God is here. Preparation and organisation is blood, sweat and tears. Serving God is always blood, sweat and tears and the glory of the presence of God. Worry if it is not.
Today's title is "Mission Accomplished" - how can we continue the task until it is finished?
Yesterday, we heard how Jesus said, “Let’s go over to the other side.” The disciples could have saved themselves a lot of anxiety and panic had they believed what Jesus had said. He did not say, “Let’s go to the middle of the lake and drown.”
Theologians always ask the wrong questions. They take simple things and make them complicated. The question is not "How will I get there?" but “How am I going to feel when I get there.” I have a constant prayer that I don’t get there and have regrets. There is a great danger because our view of the kingdom of God is so small that at the end we will think, “Oh no… why did I not…”
That is why you have to be mature in your thinking. Don’t let the day end without considering whether you will complete the task God has given you.
I Corinthians 3:11 - 15. You already have your salvation. That is a free gift. Your reward is not getting to the other side that is grace. But there will be rewards for what we have done.
Many start well. The landscape is littered with burnt out leaders who started well. The landscape is littered with burnt out leaders who started well. Paul is our example: he finished the race.
2 Corinthians 11:23 - 29, Having the Holy Spirit doesn’t make it easy, He just makes it possible. You are called to endure and to keep going and it is not easy. You’ve got to get there knowing that what you have done will be tested and evaluated. You are saved by grace and then you work your socks off until you get there! Christianity is not a spectator sport. It is service in the middle of trials and difficulties with God’s promise that He is going to get you there.
Before you sleep tonight, read the first chapter of Joshua just to get a bit of thought about what it means to move forward in God’s will. God says, “Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.” Most people think they are the odd one out. You are not different.
Most things are never done because people never start. While they are procrastinating, things never happen. God will deal with things while you are getting on with it. You cannot get into the Promised Land sitting in a chair thinking and praying about it. There is a time to get up and do it! Tomorrow we are going to do it. Whatever happens we are going to do it. Then you find that God is with you. Otherwise it won’t happen.
2 Timothy 1:7. Timothy was fearful. Peter was the same Peter who denied Christ. Don’t say, “It is not me.”
How many of you do not open your mouths because you are ashamed? The fear of man can stop you doing what you need to do. Don’t be ashamed. Be shameless! Share in the suffering. You are not called to avoid suffering. You are called to share in the suffering.
We know whom we have believed. I don’t look at the problem, I look at Him. God has been faithful and kept us over all these years! He is good. And all those times when we didn’t know what was going to happen and how we were going to go on, He was there. So we are not ashamed. We might not understand it all, we might not have it all worked out but we know Him.
Paul knew where he was going. If you know where you are going, then you are fine! CS Lewis wrote, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were those who thought most of the next.”
Philippians 3:12- 14. I press on to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own. In one sense it has already happened. I am not His and now I press on to obtain what He has given me. The first bit is grace but the second part is blood, sweat and tears. There is still a way to go. (Joshua was 110 when he died.) One thing I do… forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal. Are you bound by the past? Leave it behind. There is still a lot to be done.
Finally 2 Timothy 4:16 - 17. The basic fear of everybody is being abandoned. What does Paul say? At my first defense, no one came to stand by me. All deserted me. The worst happened, as it happened to Christ. He was on his own. But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me. God will NEVER abandon you! He will always be there with you. Notice that the Lord didn’t strengthen Paul so that he could survive, He strengthened him so that he could proclaim the message. That is what we have been called to do… not just to survive. We have been called to proclaim it. That is why you are alive.
You might be abandoned by everybody but He will not abandon you. He will be with you to the very end. So there is no reason to say, “No.”