"We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised." - Hebrews 6:11–12
The other day on a phone call a friend told me, “I finally did it. I finally finished reading the Bible through. I got stuck at the Psalms; didn’t think I’d like or need to read poetry. But I decided it was time to finish it and turns out --- I liked it --- they’re really good.” He was genuinely gratified to finish something he had long wanted to finish. Even more, he got a chance to really taste something good that has nourished God’s people for millennia.
If you’re at all like me, you probably have some piles in your life. Some of us have more piles, some less. Some of us keep our piles right out in the open – so much so that they just become part of the ambiance to us, and it takes others gaping at our “organization” to open our eyes to realize we’ve left quite a lot unfinished. Others have a few piles of unfinished business that is mostly internal: thoughts unfinished, emotions unprocessed, conversations un-extended – an internal avalanche hanging precariously. And beware the buyer of books who has bookmarks in 20 or more at a time, always beginning and never ending!
In light of this, I found it interesting recently to stumble across a classic Christian prayer written not for the beginning of endeavors, but the continuing of the same. I found it in a devotional work by Tom Wright and the prayer was written by another famous Englishman nearly 500 years ago: the explorer Sir Francis Drake. (Yes, the same Drake who was slaver turned pirate turned Queen’s secret mercenary turned circumnavigator turned California discoverer turned naval officer turned parliamentarian – that Sir Francis Drake). Turns out he was good at launching great endeavors. Also, it turns out he was a pretty good writer of prayers:
"O Lord God, when thou givest to thy servants to endeavour any great matter, grant us also to know that it is not the beginning, but the continuing of the same, until it be thoroughly finished, which yieldeth the true glory; through him who for the finishing of thy work laid down his life for us, our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Amen."
- Quoted from "Hebrews For Everyone by N.T. Wright
I wonder, have you ever prayed for the finishing of your work? What would it look like in your life to sit quietly for a time and envision all the tasks of life that God has granted you the time, ability, skill, and wealth to begin? How would you know if your endeavors --- from the smallest to the greatest --- were worth your time in the end? How would you know if you had been successful? Sir Frank and the author of Hebrews would both remind you that persevering to the fulfillment of a task is where the real goods are found.
The author of Hebrews (yes, we mostly think now it was not Paul, but who exactly it was continues to be a great debate) was facing a major issue in the lives of some of his or her fellow believers: they were tempted to leave their walk with the Lord unfinished and leave all that they had learned about Christ and the Spirit behind. He urges them to show diligence, reach the end, fully realize their hope. We at Covenant pray this for you as well: that you would complete your life of faith and fully realize your hope in Jesus. But, just for a moment today, let’s use this truth to go back to some of the smaller piles we all leave laying around our life.
This prayer, this scripture, and my friend’s experience all remind us that there is a great relief in finishing something. It is emotionally healing and gratifying to finishing a long-neglected task – like a spring clean-up. It is even more powerful to fully think some of your thoughts or to have a full and rounded conversation or restoration to another person about a topic you’ve been dancing around for far too long.
So, I’ll ask you today: what is one pile in your life that God is showing you to deal with? Where could a little closure or a little conversation or a little commitment to complete something free up much of your emotional and spiritual bandwidth? I believe God wants to bless you by helping you finish something.