Not Built in Vain

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“When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, ‘It is finished’:  and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost.”  John 19:30

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Right now, I would love to be able to say, “It is finished!”  It wouldn’t be as dramatic an event, or time changing as it was for You, Lord, but right now seems to be a time of just having a hard time finishing.  There are so many things “competing” against me.  There are so many ways that I’m being pulled.  There are so many ideas that seem to be going against what I hear from You.  And I feel pretty torn, but not the martyr.

But then, You understand exactly how I feel and more.  You’ve been there.  You’ve been through it.   Only You responded rightly and perfectly to every situation.  Me, it’s a different story.  I’m flawed.  I dont’ always respond rightly, perfectly, even in the middle of seeking Your will.  But You still love me and never give up on me.  But because of what You finished, I know that I “have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God.”  Therefore I will “hold fast [my] confession.  For [I] do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with [my] weaknesses, buy One who in every respect has been tempted as [I am], yet without sin.  Let [me] then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that [I] may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Is there ever a time when I am not in need?  Annie Hawks understood when she penned “I Need Thee Every Hour.”  Yes, I know how she felt.  “I need thee every hour; stay thou nearby; temptations lose their power when thou art nigh. I need thee every hour, in joy or pain; come quickly and abide, or life is vain.  I need thee every hour; teach me thy will; and thy rich promises in me fulfill.”  She understood what You had finished.  And she prayed that You would finish it in her also.  And my prayer is that You will finish it in me.

So what did You finish and what are You desiring to finish in me?  How can I follow Your example here?  “Those who do not carry their own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciples.  If one of you is planning to build a tower, you sit down first and figure out what it will cost, to see if you have enough money to finish the job.  If you don’t you will not be able to finish the tower after laying the foundation; and all who see what happened will make fun of you, saying ‘This man began to build, and was not able to finish.'”  Paul said, “none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the grace of God.”  And You Jesus said, “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work.”

“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”  (2 Timothy 4:7)  Can I say that at any moment in my life?   When I utter my last breath on earth, like You Jesus, will I be able to say it is finished?  Or will I be crying, “Wait, not yet, I’m not ready!”?  What is my meat right now and every day?  What am I hungry for? Is it to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work?  Is that what I want more than anything, no matter the cost, no matter the pain, no matter how much it turns my life upside down?  Do I want You and Your will in my life more than I want life itself?

These words ring in my ears, “or life is vain.”  Annie Hawks understood that life outside of You, outside of Your will was in vain.  Noah Webster defines vain as “empty; worthless; having no substance, value or importance.”  It’s fruitless and ineffectual.  It’s empty and unreal.

When my daughter was little, I helped her take some photos for a photo competition.  The one we chose was an abandoned church in the woods.  And this was our caption, “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it; except the Lord keep the city, the watchment wake but in vain.”  (Psalm 127:1)  Solomon looked back over all his pursuits and the pursuits of people and cried out, “It’s all vanity!  It’s all emptiness.”  And here was his conclusion, “Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”  And here’s my conclusion, “Fear God, love Him with all of my being, with every one of my resources, and live in and by His will, and my life will be united in His purpose, in His meaning, in His plan.”

“It is finished.  I have fulfilled God’s will for Me.  I have completed His plan.  I have shown His worth.  I have obeyed Him fully.  I have done what He sent Me to do.  I have been who He sent me to be.”  Yes, Jesus, that is what You did.  That is who You are and who You’ve always been.  You’ve always been the opposite of vanity.  You are my Fullness.  You are my Worth.  You are my Substance.  You are my Fruitfulness.  You are my Effectiveness.  You are what fills me.  You are Reality.  You are the Completion, the End, the Perfection of not just God’s plan, but of God.  You are the “Pièces de Résistance”, the most important thing in life!  Because You faithfully completed the will of God in Your life, I can too.

Because it’s by the power of the Resurrection, through the indwelling of Your Holy Spirit, that I am made like You and given the power and desire to fulfill Your will in my life.  So Lord, no matter how confusing or difficult things get in my life, may I love You more and may I cling to Your will as though my life depended on it, because it does.  Outside of Your will is emptiness, emptiness so tangible that you can feel it.  But in the middle of Your will, is Your presence, Your joy, Your fullness.  “You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  (Psalm 16:11)

Well, Lord, You didn’t suffer the cross and all that shame and suffering for nothing.  It wasn’t in vain.  It was for a glorious purpose.  And even the pain and suffering and shame in my life is not in vain.  It is all for a glorious purpose, for Your purpose.  So guide me and direct me in Your will in the midst of the good and the bad and the easy and the hard and even when things seem confusing and mixed up.  I want doing Your will, no, being in the middle of Your will with You to be my heart’s desire and my life’s focus.  I want to be able to say at any given moment, not just on the day I die, “It is finished.  I am in the middle of Your will.”  You are more than my Perfect Example, Lord.  You are my Perfection Himself.  Have Your way in me and make known Your path of life and fullness of joy in me, forevermore.

 

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