New Hope Notes
Pastor Elwin Ahu
By Pastor Elwin Ahu
August 14-15, 2010
Many years from now, someone is walking into a graveyard. This person is someone you love dearly, perhaps a family member or a friend. They are holding flowers and walking toward your tombstone. As they clear away the weeds, what will be written as your epitaph? What do you want to be remembered for at the end of your life?
According to the Bible, “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2, NIV). We need to realize that we are all going to die because death is our destiny. Many people have nothing to put on their tombstones because they were so caught up with the first half of their lives. How we want to see ourselves in the end should define how we live now.
In his last days at Rome, Paul wrote his epitaph in the form of a letter to Timothy, "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith." (2 Tim. 4:6-7, NLT). The drink offering represented joy and celebration. Wine used to be poured on a burning altar as a sweet aroma to the Lord. Paul meant he was willingly and wholeheartedly giving his life up to the Lord and celebrating. Throughout his life, Paul endured hard labor, hardship, hunger, thirst, cold and exposure. He had been imprisoned, beaten, stoned, and shipwrecked several times. However, Paul was able to die without any regrets because he knew what awaited him at the finish line. Paul wrote, "...in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day..." (2 Tim. 4:8, NLT).
1. What will your life look like from the FINISH LINE?
Take a moment to place yourself at the finish line of life. What do you want to be known for at the end of my life? What do you want people to remember you for? What will be written on your epitaph? Will it say he was a loser who wasted his life away? Or will it say he lived and loved Jesus to the end? Think about your epitaph. Fill in your name, birth date and a fake death date. Then, spend a couple minutes thinking through what your epitaph will say.
19______ - 20______
Spend some time reflecting on what you wrote down. Ask yourself, what am I doing about it now? What adjustments do I need to make? Begin to live your life setting yourself up for the epitaph. Remember that life is like a phone call that gets disconnected in the middle of a sentence. We don’t know when the finish line is going to come. Now that you know where you are going and what you are shooting for, think about what you need to do to get it done. The following three disciplines are conscious choices that when put into intentional practice, will lead to a life with no regrets.
2. Three disciplines that lead to a life with no regrets:
Choose your BATTLES well.
Simply stated, fights that are not worth fighting are a control issue. There are some situations where we have absolutely no control. We have no control over how much money we are going to make, what we are going to leave behind and what people are saying about us. We need to let go of things we can’t control. On the other hand, good fights are areas we can control, our response to what is happening to us. Good fights will press us closer to God, and lead us to love God and one another more. In these battles, we might fight and persevere. It is important to discern between the two because battles that don’t result in the crown of righteousness will not get us any closer to the finish line. The serenity prayer says, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference”. Pray for wisdom to discern between the things we can control and the things we can’t.
Finish YOUR course.
Instead of fighting battles that are not worth fighting, we should use that energy to fight the course God has set before us. The Bible says, “But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus." (Acts 20:24, NLT). God has given you a specific race to run. What will prevent you from finishing well?
There was a water bearer in India who delivered water with two clay pots. While one of the pots was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water, the other pot had a crack in it and always arrived half-full. The cracked pot was ashamed of its imperfections and considered itself to be a bitter failure. One day, the crack pot apologized to the water bearer. In response, the water bearer pointed out the beautiful flowers along the pathway and said, “Did you notice there were only flowers on your side? I took advantage of your flaw and picked the flowers to decorate the master’s table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not have been beautiful flowers to bless the house.”
In our lives, we formulate plans to fulfill in life. Then, we think we are a failure when our plans get altered by things, people and circumstances. When we get laid off, served with divorce papers or the economy melts down, we give up and stop trying. And we ask, what happened to God?
Although the cracked pot believed its sole purpose was to deliver water, God had an underlying plan. We need to learn how to trust in the divine intention of everything we do. Everything we go through in life is part of the plan He already designed for us. We need to discern what that plan is and press in closer to that plan. If we press towards it, no matter what the circumstances may be, we will finish well.
The cracked pot was fine until it compared itself to the perfect pot. Likewise, we are fine with ourselves until we see something that seems to be better. We can feel fine in life until we begin to compare ourselves to somebody with seemingly different and better gifts. God is telling you that you are you and that you need to run the race He has given you. On judgment day, God isn’t going to ask, why weren’t you like this person? He is going to ask, why weren’t you like you?
There is something special in you, and there is a reason for your flaws. We need to discover and discern our assignment, and press through and finish through to the end. If your marriage is in trouble, seek counseling and get help. Like the cracked pot, water the seeds of your children and friends.
Pursue TRUST, not security.
We don’t know and we may never know what seeds are given to us. However, we want to know and we press God for clarity not confusion. We find ourselves saying, ‘Will you just make it clear to me? God, I am so confused, make it clear so I know exactly what to do. Tell me what to do.”
As illustrated by Paul’s journey, life is not about clarity. Despite the fact that Paul was afraid because he didn’t know what was awaiting him in Rome, God encouraged Paul and Paul trusted in the power and size of God. In “Ruthless Trust” by Brennan Manning, a philosopher named John Kavanaugh was searching for the meaning in life. John asked Mother Theresa to pray that he receive clarity. Mother Theresa refused to pray for him and said, “I’ve never had clarity, what I’ve always had is trust. We crave clarity because we try to eliminate the fear of trusting God in darkness and uncertainties. I will pray that you trust God.”
We want God to lay it all out before us but God wants us to learn how to trust Him. Even when everything is unclear, the heart of trust will say, "Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord!" (Hab. 3:17-18, NLT). That is what trust is, the circumstances don’t matter, you should always trust in the Lord. Let’s end with this prayer. I hope you will remember it when you are down.
"Abba, into Your hands I entrust my body, mind and spirit and this entire day - morning, afternoon, evening and night. Whatever You want of me, I want of me, falling into You and trusting You in the midst of my life. Into Your heart I entrust my heart, feeble, distracted, insecure, uncertain. Abba, unto You I abandon myself in Jesus our Lord. Amen." ("Ruthless Trust," Brennan Manning, 2000)
1. What do you want to be remembered for at the end of your life?
2. What adjustments do you need to make to set yourself up for your epitaph?
3. What are some examples of battles that are not worth fighting?
4. How has God used some of your flaws and imperfections?
5. What does it mean to trust God?