Are You Finishing The Course?

   by Rayola Kelley

     Have you ever thought about what it means to finish the course? The Apostle Paul talked about his walk with Jesus in confidence because he had fought a good fight, finished his course and kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7).
     The Apostle Paul’s declaration came to mind in light of  the New Year. God has a course for each of us to finish. Before the year ends one must consider if he or she has maintained his or her particular course with God or  taken a detour. A detour means a person will not finish the course and must go back to the point where he or she strayed in order to get back in line with God’s will for his or her life.
      As I thought about what could keep me from finishing the course, I was reminded of resolutions. Why do we make New Year’s resolutions, and what do they consist of? These determinations usually point to personal discipline. For example, typical resolutions consist of getting  excessive pounds off, overcoming bad habits or establishing new or healthy ones. Isn’t it interesting that most resolutions are about getting control of an area of life that is out of control?
     The next consideration is why do we wait for the New Year to bring discipline to our lives in areas that are not beneficial in terms of personal health, spiritual well-being or spiritual authority?  The answer is obvious. People live in the past or present while preserving the right to give in to any appetite they so desire in the present, especially during the holidays. They cling to the good intention of getting control of an area especially at the beginning of the New Year.  The intention of doing right silences their conscience while they continue in their modes of abuse and destruction that materializes in their body, attitudes and relationships. Sadly, when January 2 comes, their resolutions are either ignored or put off as they run out of steam, and return to old habits that are comfortable and familiar. They not only fail to finish the course, they never even get out of the starting gate to begin to run the race.
     Consider this scenario in light of our spiritual lives. In Scripture there is no example where one is allowed to partially finish the course. The Christian life is a complete life that Christ has purchased on the cross. Jesus did not give bits and pieces of Himself—He totally committed His life and body so we could have life. Therefore, how can we as His followers be partial in our level of commitment and sacrifice before God?
      There are countless reasons why Jesus’ followers today are partial in their commitment. I have heard many of them. Some of these people have tender hearts before God and the best of intentions, but nothing changes in their lives because they continue in the same cycles. They fail to realize that changing the course one is in involves changing one’s disposition and perception. Without the proper change inwardly, there will be no change outwardly.
     The way to change one’s perception and direction is to come into agreement with God’s evaluation. We must define our failure to properly respond to God in the right way. James 4:17 states: “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”
     There are two types of sin—that of commission and that of omission. It is important to understand these two categories of sin. If we outwardly break the Ten Commandments, we have committed the sin of commission for we have committed an offense. This sin is a product of fleshly rebellion and independence.
      Failing to do that which is right is the sin of omission. It is a sin of the disposition because it comes down to attitude and devotion. To fail to do that which is right is to prevent God from having the necessary avenue with which to work on our behalf. God can only meet people at the points of true repentance and righteousness. Any time God’s part is omitted, it means the person has omitted personal responsibility and accountability. Without accountability there will be no reality check so that possible instruction, guidance and discipline is omitted. As a result, issues are never resolved. Such people walk in defeat, and begin to heap consequences upon themselves as they not only omit God’s work and intervention in their own lives, but in the lives of others.
     Christians often take pride in the fact they avoid the sin of commission, but many stand guilty of the sin of omission wherein they have omitted their godly responsibility in a given situation. This not only prevents God from properly working in the situation, but the person is failing to take the steps that will bring him or her closer to the finish line.
     What types of sin constitute omission in the Christian’s life? As you consider them, you will see they are the same types of attitudes that work on the basis of empty New Year’s resolutions.  Maybe in the world they can be shrugged off, but in Christianity they are sins that are unacceptable to God.  Most of these sins fall under the same category: Procrastination.
     Fear always results in the sin of omission. People fear failure, rejection, incompetence, and especially fear of losing control. This type of fear refuses to move outside of controlled situations or comfort zones. The idea of being vulnerable, transparent or exposed can cause tremendous anxiety. When fear is present it either drives people into extremes where they appear foolish and ridiculous or paralyzes them from advancing forward in the kingdom of God.
     Complacency is another sin of omission. It is lukewarm in attitude and response towards God. It does not act out in outward rebellion, but it clearly fails to walk in the ways of righteousness.  When Jesus rebuked the Laodicean Church, He told them their complacency towards Him had actually deluded them toward their spiritual condition (Revelation 3:14-18). They thought they were rich when in fact they were poor and wretched. Complacency often hides behind fake nobility and self-pity.
     Apathy is hopelessness with a bad attitude. Often people with apathy are angry because of disillusionment about life. They say to themselves that it is useless to try because no matter what they do it will be wrong or go wrong.  They live in despair, usually blaming everyone for their lousy attitude and the pit they are wallowing in.
   Slothfulness will not respond outside of its own personal terms. It can’t be moved no matter what prods are used. It lacks inspiration or vision outside of comfort zones. It strives to control in all areas of life. This sin of omission creates a certain atmosphere that can be identified by spiritual inconsistencies, sloppiness or filth. The reason for the atmosphere is because a perverse spirit walks hand in hand with slothfulness. This perverse spirit can pervert a person’s perspective, attitudes and actions.
     Depression can be caused by various factors, but it can also be a product of procrastination. When depression falls into the category of the sins of omission, it is often pointing to unresolved issues.  These unresolved issues still remain an issue because they have not been properly dealt with. This could mean a sin that has not been repented of, an emotional wound that has never be healed, a great loss that has not been resolved before the throne of God, or a hurt that has turned into unforgiveness and bitterness.  These unresolved issues will always catch up to a person, especially when the right circumstances trigger them.
     Are you making any healthy spiritual resolutions for the New Year? If so, check out your attitude to see why you have been displaying procrastination in this matter. If you find an ungodly attitude, ask the Lord to show you which sin of omission you have been operating in.  Once His searchlight reveals the sin, repent and give Him the opportunity to step on the scene to change your attitude.  Once He does, you will have His strength to finish the course He has called you to.
     We at Gentle Shepherd Ministries wish each of you a blessed New Year.  May it be a year where you daily discover God’s endless storehouse of compassion and taste the newness of life as Jesus becomes more and more the burning passion of your heart.