Finding and Finishing Our Course

 

Luke 14:25-33 And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, 26If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. 27And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? 29Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, 30Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. 31Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? 32Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. 33So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

 

The Christian life is pictured in the Bible as a race to run; a course to finish.  The Apostle Paul was determined not only finish his course, but to do it with joy (Acts 20:24).  This is exactly what he did.  Shortly before his death, he gave this testimony: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2Timothy 4:7).  He finished his course.  Each of us needs to be aware that God has a course for us, and He wants us to carry it out to the end; He wants us to finish our course.

 

Gods plan for each of us is specific to us.  No one else can carry it out for us.  It is ours.  However, He will help us find and complete that plan.  Still, many Christians never even find their plan, let alone finish it.  In fact, they hardly even try.

 

The passage above speaks of one who intends to build a tower.  Building this tower is like running a race and finishing a course.  Yet, because of many pitfalls, the tower may never get built.  By looking at the necessary ingredients for building this tower, we can see how to succeed as well as learn why so many people fail.

 

God wants us to finish our course

 

The first requirement of those who would build a tower is that they must be “intending to build” (vs. 28).  If they do not at least intend to build, then nothing else can be accomplished.  To “intend” means to “have in mind as a purpose.”  When we intend to finish our course our vision of the race goes well beyond the starting line.  It also allows a view of the finish line, or in this case, the placing of the final brick.  Granted, the way to the end may not be understood but a vision of accomplishment is formed.  You cannot go someplace if you don’t know where it it.

 

This intention or vision is also spoken of as our “purpose.”  In 2 Timothy 3:10, Paul told Timothy, “But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience.” Probably the greatest number of Christians fail to finish their course because they have no purpose in their lives.  Or, their purpose has been skewed by the Devil or self.  So, we must have the right purpose.

 

It Must Be For God: We cannot finish our course by living our life for self.  We must lose the life we want to live for the sake of Jesus Christ.  Luke 9:24 says, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.”  Jeremiah told the scribe Baruch, “And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not…” (Jer. 45:5).  We must seek great things for the Lord.  Jesus told His disciples, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. 26 But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.” (Luke 22:25-26)

 

It Must Be From God:  Many Christians try to serve God on their own terms.  They choose what they want to do for the Lord and then expect Him to support them in their labors.  But this will not work.  It is not enough to be doing something for the Lord.  The mission has to be the one He has given us.  When Saul got saved, he began his Christian life by asking, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6).  As with Paul, we too must seriously asked the Lord what He would have us to do.  Paul, when praying for the Colossians, asked the Lord that they “might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (Colossians 1:9).  In other words, to know and understand the course He had planned for them.  Caleb claimed the promise of God when he said, “Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the LORD spake in that day” (Joshua 14:12).  But note that he claimed only what God had already promised him.

 

To finish our course we must find God’s purpose for us and follow after that purpose.  God may not tell us everything at once. He will at least give us a starting direction and will always show we the next step to take.  But we need more than a purpose.

 

We need a plan:  Good intentions are cheap.  In fact, without some action behind them, they are worthless.  But before we can act, we must know where we are going.  Our passage in Luke tells about the builder who sits down before he begins to build and “counteth the cost” (vs. 28).  That is what we do when we establish a plan and determine if we are willing to give the necessary effort to accomplish our purpose.

 

Why Do we Need a Plan?  We need a plan to discover God’s way of accomplishing the purpose.  He must be the source of the purpose and the plan as well.  We seek His face through prayer and meditation and wait for Him to give us a plan.  Proverbs 3:5-6 teaches us to, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

 

We need a plan to discover God’s timing.  God’s timing is beautiful (Ecclesiastes 3:11) and He will make all things work together for good (Romans 8:28).  But our timing may destroy the entire purpose and will certainly cause unnecessary delays and detours.  We need God’s timing in order to determine several things:

 

  • When to begin action.
  • What steps to take.
  • What our priorities are.
  • What can be left for later.

 

How Do We Get This Plan?  We seek God’s direction through prayer.  Jeremiah 33:3 says, “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.”  If we seek God’s answer and wait for it, He will let us know what He wants us to do.

 

We develop the plan through meditation.  The virtuous woman “considereth a field, and buyeth it” (Proverbs 31:16).  God can and will work through our thought processes if we are submitted to Him.  This is why Bible reading coupled with meditation upon His word is so important.

 

We gain wisdom through counsel.  Others may counsel us personally or we may find help through published materials that can help us.  God uses all of these ways.  Proverbs 11:14 – “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.”

 

Planning is crucial to finishing our course.  But there are people who have spent their life making one plan after another and yet have accomplished very little.  Planning must be coupled with action.

 

In Luke, the builder of the tower must get to the point where he has “laid the foundation” (14:29).  For Christians to accomplish their purpose for the Lord, they must lay a solid foundation.  Jesus told a story about two men who built houses (Matthew 7:24-27).  He does not mention any difference in floor plan, or size, or exterior covering.  He only mentions one difference: the foundation on which the houses were built.  One was built on the sand and the other on the rock and when the storms came, only the house with the firm foundation stood.  The type of foundations also told us something about the men who built the houses.  The man who built on the rock was called a wise man.  The one who built on sand was called a fool.  What kind of builder are we?

 

The Baptist preacher and teacher, B. H. Carroll (1843-1914), said, “Only prepared men accomplish great things.  And the greater the preparation, the less need for long time to do great things.”

 

Prepare For the Work:  Proverbs 24:27 states, “Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house.”  Picture someone in early America who is homesteading in a new land.  What is most important?  Should they build a nice house first?  Of course not!  To make our work fit in the field would be to prepare for defense against any hostile Indians and to make sure that the crops get planted in time for harvest.  A house is no good if we are killed or if we have no food to eat.

 

Many people want to put the cart before the horse in Christian service.  Paul spoke of those who were, “desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm” (Titus 1:7).  There are people who want to teach but do not want to do the study or get the training necessary to be a good teacher.

 

Any significant work for the Lord requires some form of preparation.  More and more people want to skip this step.  For us, it may mean BibleCollege or some special form of training.  It may mean working under someone for several years and learning from them.  It may mean getting our financial house in order.  But, if we are ever to finish, our course, we must prepare.

 

Prepare for the Winter: Proverbs tells us that the ants are wise because “they prepare their meat in the summer” (Proverbs 30:25).  They use summer as a window of opportunity to gather food so that when the winter comes and there is not food to gather, they can live off that which is in store.  Preparation means that we use opportunities and do things at the best time to do them.  If our purpose requires some form of learning that is easier to obtain before marriage, then we need to make a choice between the two.  Attending school later may be necessary, but timing is important.  We often want to skip the dull stuff but the dull stuff is often the key to success.

 

Okay, so we have discovered God’s purpose for our life.  We have made plans and have laid the foundation through preparation.  Now what?  Now…it is time to push!

 

We Must Push with All our Might:  The main thrust of our passage is that someone wants “to build a tower” (Luke 14:28).  To build a tower we must do the work of a builder.  We must put forth the effort.  We must push.  A worthy purpose requires a working servant.  Many Christians fail to finish their course because they are lazy; they have no push.  Solomon admonishes us, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).  Paul tells the Colossian servants, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (3:23).  Doing a work for the Lord takes all we have…and then some.  Are we working as if for the Lord?

 

We must be Persistant (vs. 29, 30):  Yet, to finish the tower, one thing yet is needed.  The builder must be “able to finish.”  Some men start many things but finish none.  Paul finished his course.  Will we finish ours?  Is so, we must refuse to faint (Proverbs 24:10; Galatians 6:9).  We must finish by faith (Hebrews 12:1-3; 1Corinthians 15:58).

 

We have been looking at the Christian life as one in which we build a tower or finish a course.  Another picture used in the Bible is that of sowing and reaping (Psalm 126:5-6).  In order to reap, we must work the land, sow the seed, care for the plants and refuse to quit.  God promises that those who refuse to faint will eventually, in due season, reap the harvest (Galatians 6:9).  What would it take for us to fail?  Why not just keep on going on for the sake of the Lord?

 

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