It happens over and over again throughout life: As elementary school wraps up, we move on to junior high. Then high school. Then college. Then maybe more college. Then a career. Then maybe a new city. At some point, maybe marriage. Then kids. The list goes on and on…
Life is full of transitions; full of points where we finish one stage and move on to something new. Too often, though, at least for me, I can be so focused on the next stage of life that I struggle to finish well where I’m currently at. It’s like running a relay race. Sure, the person running the next leg is preparing to do the best he can once he starts, but, in order for it to matter, the runner before him has to finish his race well, and they both have to concentrate on transitioning to the next phase.
The apostle Paul speaks to exactly this point in 2 Timothy 4:7,
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
For, Paul, as he was nearing the end of his life, he wasn’t solely talking about the exciting reality of being united with Christ in eternity after his death. Instead, he was also thankful to have finished his race, and to have finished it well. As I continue to process moving to New York City in the summer of 2015, this passage serves as a strong reminder to finish my time well in New Orleans by regularly asking myself three questions.
Am I Still Fighting?
Paul fought the good fight of following and serving Jesus till the end of his life. Though my time in New Orleans is starting to come to an end, the fight is not over. I haven’t left yet. People still need Jesus here. As God continues to give me an increasing burden for the people of New York City, I need to constantly remind myself that I’m still surrounded by the people of New Orleans. As long as God has you in any stage of life, he wants to use you there. Finishing well does not mean finishing easy. While it would be easiest to coast to the finish line, Paul reminds us to fight to the end.
Am I Passing The Baton?
Paul had a calling from God, and at the end of his life he had finished his race. Yet, just like in a relay, the race continues even after Paul is gone. As much as God used Paul’s life and ministry to see the gospel spread throughout much of the world, even greater global impact has happened since his death.
Just because I am moving to New York City doesn’t mean that the race stops here in New Orleans. In the same way that Paul finished his race by multiplying himself into leaders like Timothy who could continue to spread the gospel after his death, finishing well for me means actively and intentionally raising up leaders to continue the incredible work God has here in New Orleans long after I’m gone. The movement of God doesn’t depend on me, and this should keep me in a constant state of humility. Yet, at the same time, Jesus also said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:37-38). In this last year of ministry in New Orleans, I need to regularly ask myself, “Who am I discipling?” I can know I’ve finished well if the ministry I leave behind continues to thrive and press on in my absence, and I should see this as my responsibility for as long as I’m still here.
Am I Leaning on Jesus?
Lastly, Paul was able to say that he kept the faith. This next year will involve a lot of planning for New York. No matter how much I think through this next season and how to intentionally and strategically I finish well here, I must always remember to depend on Jesus. I might have a plan, but I need Jesus to make an impact. Running our race, just like the author of Hebrews says, requires us to constantly be “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).
This blog was originally posted on Rob and Riley Russell’s personal website. You can go to www.robandriley.com to follow the Russell’s as they set out on this journey to plant a church in New York City.
Check out the rest of the posts in the “Calling” series: