Finishing Well

This week, as we turned the calendar over to July, we marked the halfway point of 2020. And what a half-year it’s been so far. We’ve had a presidential impeachment, a global pandemic, the cancellation of sports, a stock market crash, protests and rioting, murder hornets and the invasion of the Saharan dust cloud. I think we are all just waiting to see what’s next.

Of course, that probably depends on whether you’re a glass-half-full, or glass-half-empty type of person. If you are on the optimistic side and tend to look on the bright side, you probably are assuming that things have to get better from here and you are looking forward to the next six months. If you have more of a negative mindset and are inclined to worry about the future, and expect the worst, this year plays right into your hands, and no doubt you are as gloomy as the summer day is long.

As a former coach, here’s my take on it. We are sitting in the locker room at halftime. Things didn’t go so well in the first half. Maybe it was a bad game plan, or poor preparation, or maybe we just weren’t focused and didn’t play our best. Or maybe our opponent is just having one of those nights that you dream about, and could do no wrong. But here’s the deal. No one ever remembers the halftime score. They only look to see what the scoreboard said when the game was over. We’re not done yet. What they did in the first half to you, you can go out and do to them in the second half.

And that halftime speech has been repeated thousands of times by coaches in just about every sport that has a halftime. Let’s go back out there for the second half and leave it all on the field or court. Play hard, do your best, give 110%–and good things are bound to happen.

That theme is consistent with Scripture–from Genesis, which by and large didn’t turn out so well for humanity, to Revelation, when everything comes together perfectly. We are reminded that we are not running a short sprint, but a long race of endurance (Hebrews 12:1). It may even be bumpy along the way, but we are in it for the long run.

What if God wants to use this year–with all of its craziness, and confusion, and division–to end up being the best year of our lives? What if He reveals Himself to us in a new way in the weeks and months ahead that makes this a year to remember–for all the good reasons? What if He wants to use us in ways He has never done before? What if, in the end, our lives and our church and our nation are changed, renewed, revived, awakened in 2020?

There are certainly some things we cannot control, and it could actually get worse before it gets better. If it does, we can assume that God is still on the throne through it all, and He is working all things for good for those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. As for our part, we do have choices before us that can make all the difference in the world, no matter our circumstances.

I thought of several choices we can all make, and had typed them all out; and then I remembered a verse that spells it out better than I ever could. Micah 5:8 says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

So, we can choose…justice. Much is being said about justice these days, but that verse doesn’t say anything about believing in justice, or telling others how to practice it. It says DO it. Do the right thing, treat others as you would want to be treated, and stand up for those who have no one to stand up for them. Christians should lead the way to make sure justice is lived out around us.

We can choose…kindness. No matter how ugly the world gets, you can always respond with kindness and mercy. We are the beneficiaries of God’s grace to us, and it is His kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). As we have freely received mercy from God, so we should extend it to others. It’s amazing how far a little grace will take you in today’s world.

And, we can choose…to walk humbly with our God. Seek Him daily, invest time in your relationship with Him, walk by faith, and humble yourself before Him. Commit to pray and read His word daily. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things, and see the world from His perspective. These hard times can draw you closer to God, or, if you let them, push you away. Choose to draw closer.

We’re a little more than halfway there for 2020, with wonderful possibilities ahead for each of us. As the old cliche goes, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish that counts. So, let’s finish well.

Happy Independence Day to all of you. Have a safe and blessed 4th of July weekend, and I hope to see you Sunday.

–Pastor Ken