As I’ve entered the so-called retirement years, this phrase has come to me several times, and at times has become my mantra for trying to plan or order my life, especially spiritually, which is to me the most important, meaningful, and rewarding field of endeavor. “Finishing well” is another phrase I’ve heard kicked around by my peers trying to express the same goal or thought.
In one sense it sounds right. And I’m sure there is some merit to it, in the sense of focus. One must stay focused on the most important target if he or she is to have any chance of hitting it.
But even the phrases “finishing strong” or “finishing well” seem for me today in some early morning moments of clarity to bely pride in me. Like I can do something significant for the Lord, or that He needs me.
Let’s be clear, and honest. He doesn’t.
Now He may want something from us, or enjoy it when we are walking in truth and healthy relationships. We’ll perhaps get to that later or another time. But He doesn’t need us. He tells us many times in Scripture He’s quite Self sufficient, Other from His creation and created beings, Whole and happy and content within Himself.
Several verses of Scripture and thoughts flood my mind to support those thoughts. But at the top of the list is Isaiah 66:1-2.
“Thus says the Lord: “Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist,” Says the Lord. “But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word.” (Isaiah 66:1–2, NKJV)
These are among the last words recorded of Isaiah, perhaps the greatest Hebrew prophet, certainly the greatest writing prophet. From the last chapter of his amazing book and life in a rather dark time for Israel and Judah, 700 years before Christ and the New Testament. It was a time of idolatry, spiritual blindness and apostasy in God’s people. It was a time marked by unhealthy relationships with their God and with each other. Sound familiar or pertinent?
Sure it does! If you have any spiritual sight or senses left. If you compare the mores of our culture to those that please the Creator from His Word and those of the USA today. It’s cause for alarm, and perhaps panic, if you have any sense from human history of what follows when this situation exists in a nation or among nations.
The American way, the humanistic way, is to start trying to fix it! Let’s analyze how we got here, or maybe just analyze the problems and tackle them until we fix them. It sounds so right, and it’s who we are and what we do, isn’t it?
But this trait can also show us who we’ve become. Man trying to be like God, or believing he is like God? This is a simple definition of secular humanism, perhaps the oldest religion, originating in the garden.
“… in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”” (Genesis 3:5, NKJV)
Humanism is subtle and it is a part of who we are from creation. God’s people are to be humans but not secular humanist, saying “We have no need of Him,” or like a two year old, “I can do it by myself!” These are lies; substantiated in the Bible and in human history. We do need Him. It was and is always a part of His plan for us. To come to some maturity, yes, but to always need Him, trust Him, and be in relationship with Him.
We are created in His image, but we are not like Him. He is totally Other. He’s the God of all He created and we are not.
One of my favorite and most important spiritual mentors, Charles Simpson, recently said, “They tell us now there are about one hundred billion galaxies, containing about one hundred billion stars each. I don’t know who counted them? And isn’t it like human beings, we discover something, and we act like we made it. “ Telling isn’t it?
I also had the privilege and honor of visiting with Charles for a couple days recently with three other brothers, for friendship, fellowship, and spiritual counsel. In a private time with him, I mentioned this thought of “finishing strong.” He quickly said something like, “I’ve never preached a sermon on it or thought much about it.” That’s telling. About me.
And it brings me back to how I should be living, and my focus, in this chapter and maybe all chapters of my life? Not like I have to fix big cultural or church problems, or do something significant for God?
Compare the lie giving birth to secular humanism in the garden to what David said in the Psalms.
“O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; Nor do I involve myself in great matters, Or in things too difficult for me. Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child rests against his mother, My soul is like a weaned child within me.” (Psalm 131:1–2, NASB95)
This was “a man after God’s own heart” who “accomplished God’s purposes in his generation.” He was also Israel’s greatest king, save One.
And that King, would say that becoming like a little child would be very important. Little children are very trusting, and learning, and humble, and know they have needs. They also know the relationship with the people who gave them life and care for them is precious and most important. So then, the way up appears down. Perhaps living life and seeing life from the height of a bended knee? Or like a little child?
“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:1–4, NASB95)
To be continued…
I think I’ll go outside and play!