The Acts of Christ Through the Apostles By the Power of the Holy Spirit (41) Run the Race 6/1/12
“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me —the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” Acts 20:24
“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day —and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” 2 Tim. 4:6-8 [“In fewer than one hundred words, Paul shares with us the hardship of his present, the heartbeat of his past and the hope he holds for the future. In this brief passage Paul reflects on his life and ministry. He looks around, looks back and then he looks ahead. With the finish line in sight, as he picks up the pace, Paul sums up his dynamic life and his hope in death. The lessons we learn from this aging apostle will enable us to run well today, while encouraging us to finish strong tomorrow.” By Gary Bruland http://www.preaching.com/sermons/11565626/page-4/]
Paul’s passion, purpose and priorities are seen in Philippians 3:7-14: “But whatever former things I had that might have been gains to me, I have come to consider as [as one combined] loss for Christ’s sake.8 Yes, furthermore, I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege (the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth, and supreme advantage) of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him [of perceiving and recognizing and understanding Him more fully and clearly]. For His sake I have lost everything and consider it all to be mere rubbish (refuse, dregs), in order that I may win (gain) Christ (the Anointed One),9 And that I may [actually] be found and known as in Him, not having any [self-achieved] righteousness that can be called my own, based on my obedience to the Law’s demands (ritualistic uprightness and supposed right standing with God thus acquired), but possessing that [genuine righteousness] which comes through faith in Christ (the Anointed One), the [truly] right standing with God, which comes from God by [saving] faith.10 [For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope]11 That if possible I may attain to the [spiritual and moral] resurrection [that lifts me] out from among the dead [even while in the body]. 12 Not that I have now attained [this ideal], or have already been made perfect, but I press on to lay hold of (grasp) and make my own, that for which Christ Jesus (the Messiah) has laid hold of me and made me His own.13 I do not consider, brethren, that I have captured and made it my own [yet]; but one thing I do [it is my one aspiration]: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,14 I press on toward the goal to win the [supreme and heavenly] prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward.”
“More than any other single person, Paul is responsible for initiating the spread of the gospel around the world. Acts 13 –21 records the intense activity of this chosen servant of God. In many of his epistles, Paul provides insights into his own personality, his commitment, his values. Any attempt to summarize this enormous biography is bound to do injustice to his story. When we narrow the focus to Paul-as-leader, we are still overwhelmed by the enormity of the subject. Character, ethics, vision, communication, mentoring, influence, service – what topic does he not address and model? So we zoom in further and search for the reasons why he exercised such enormous influence. As students of leadership, what can we learn from Paul about broadening and deepening our capacity to shape and build the enterprise we lead? Part of the answer is that Paul was so effective because he was so driven. That, on its face, is a dangerous answer. The quality of drivenness would pose a problem if it were allowed to constitute the entire response. In fact, Who Paul was driven by, and what he was driven to, provide the key to his energy and his focus. So many passages provide insight into Paul’s character, but Philippians 3 is filled with insights about his drive. Read this chapter thoughtfully, asking yourself, “What was the focus of Paul’s life?” Then examine 3:12-14 to identify the passions in Paul’s life that drove him. Any leader who prayerfully meditates his or her way through these statements will learn a great deal about impassioned leadership. Paul’s passion grew out of his purpose. And his purpose was big enough to be the driving focus of his life. Philippians 3 is loaded with insights and principles for leaders who want to turn up the heat on their life. Remember that passionless leadership is not only uninspiring; it is “anti-inspiring!” Paul’s passion to fulfill Christ’s call in his life led him to plant churches. That’s what God called him to do. But whether a leader is called to build up people by planting churches or by managing an office or a widget factory or a classroom or a home, the passion behind the call comes from the same source. It is not a calling to a job, but a calling to fulfill God’s claim on a human life. The most important factor in anyone’s leadership is the set of core values that drives that person. Paul’s core values are described in Philippians 3. All of the energy and devotion and sacrifice that Paul displayed on the outside were driven by these core values on the inside. Any leader who would be great (or even effective) must give disciplined attention to leadership skills. But great skills attached to a vacuous (purposeless) heart will not produce greatness. Paul’s secret is, in reality, no secret at all. He spelled out for us his key to leadership success. Read it again in Philippians 3.” HANDBOOK TO LEADERSHIP – Leadership in the Image of God – Kenneth Boa, Sid Buzzell, Bill Perkins
WHAT IT TAKES TO FINISH WELL (SEE CONFORMED TO HIS IMAGE BY KEN BOA)
Intimacy with Christ
Fidelity in the spiritual disciplines (prayer, study, meditation, fellowship, stewardship, service, witness, etc.)
A biblical perspective on evil and suffering
A teachable, responsive, humble, and obedient spirit
A clear sense of personal purpose and calling
Healthy relationships with godly people
Ongoing ministry investment in the lives of others
BARRIERS TO FINISHING WELL
Lack of Intimacy with Christ
Pride and Autonomy
Comparison and envy
Pain avoidance strategies
Bitterness toward God
The Deterioration Process “ No man suddenly becomes base. Very few things suddenly happen with regard to deterioration. No child suddenly becomes delinquent. No relationship suddenly ends. No marriage suddenly dissolves. No tree suddenly falls. It's been a process of time; Grain of sand by grain of sand; Compromise by compromise.” F.B. Meyer
Do you believe that God’s purpose for your life is better than any purpose you could construct for yourself? If so, do you know God’s purpose for your life? Yet your commitment to God’s ultimate and universal purpose for all people and His unique purpose for you is more important than discovering His purpose. The Biblical principle is: commitment precedes knowledge. John 7:17 (NIV) "If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own." (Vision Foundation Booklet –Your Purpose)
What are God’s ultimate, universal and unique purposes for our lives?
1) God’s ultimate and eternal purposes are far beyond our understanding but we do know that it includes the whole created order bringing glory and honor to Him for all eternity. Revelation 4:11 (NIV) "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being." (Also see Ephesians 3:1-11)
2) God’s universal purpose. God has a passion for intimacy with His people and desires that “all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” through Jesus Christ. (1 Timothy 2:4-6) He calls us to respond to His passionate love by loving Him with all of our heart (passionately) and loving others as ourselves (compassionately). Thus the Great Commandment and the Great Commission (evangelism and disciple-making) are God’s universal purpose for all. This involves growing in conformity to Christ (Romans 8:29) Who, as a Man, is the supreme example of glorifying God by carrying out the Great Commandment and Great Commission.
3) Our unique purpose must flow out of our commitment to God’s ultimate and universal purposes or we will never know true fulfillment and contentment. We were “formed to proclaim His praise” and nothing else will satisfy us (Isaiah 43:21). Paul said every accomplishment in his life was “dung” compared to knowing Jesus and making Him known. (Philippians 3:7-14) Thus our unique purpose must have an eternal focus, (2 Corinthians 4:16-18) yet be expressed and lived out in the temporal arenas and roles (husband, father, employee, lay minister, etc.) God calls us to (Matthew 5:16).
Can a man miss his life in the same way he misses a plane? (Walker Percy – The Second Coming) How can you discover your unique purpose: Master the Book to know the Master’s call through hearing, reading, studying, memorizing, meditating on and obeying the Word of God. (Romans 12:2) Know God and know how God made you uniquely: (See LifeKeys by Kise, Stark, and Hirsh)
Daily do lists
My unique purpose
God’s universal purposes
God’s ultimate and eternal purposes
Godly purpose links the temporal to the eternal as we commit to God’s ultimate and eternal purposes in every role and arena of our lives. When our daily actions are in line with God’s ultimate, universal and unique purposes for our lives we have a sense of security, significance and peace.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION
1. “Paul’s passion grew out of his purpose. And his purpose was big enough to be the driving focus of his life. Remember that passionless leadership is not only uninspiring; it is “anti-inspiring!” (HANDBOOK TO LEADERSHIP – Leadership in the Image of God – Kenneth Boa, Sid Buzzell, Bill Perkins) How do you pursue ongoing passion, purpose and intimacy with Jesus Christ? What is His biggest competitor to your love and devotion?
2. “For physical training is of some value (useful for a little), but godliness (spiritual training) is useful and of value in everything and in every way, for it holds promise for the present life and also for the life which is to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8 Amp.) Read the abbreviated list of spiritual disciplines above (page 2) and discuss areas where you are disciplined and areas where you desire more discipline. How does faithfulness in spiritual disciplines relate to intimacy with Jesus?
3. Generally speaking we get better (more like Christ) or bitter (angry and distant from God) in trials and suffering. What can help you to do the former versus latter? See Paul’s perspective in 2 Cor. 4:16-18.
4. Do you believe that God’s purpose for your life is better than any purpose you could construct for yourself? If so, do you know God’s purpose for your life? Yet your commitment to God’s ultimate and universal purpose for all people and His unique purpose for you is more important than discovering His purpose. The Biblical principle is: commitment precedes knowledge. John 7:17 (NIV) Why is the issue of developing a biblical sense of purpose and mission so critical to finishing well? How clear is your purpose and mission?