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December 1, 2019

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Finish The Race

December 1, 2019

God didn’t save you to start a race. He saved you to finish it. You weren’t recruited from a losing devil to live life as a losing Christian. 

 

The God’s Word Translation of Philippians 1:6 states the following: 

 

“I’m convinced that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it through to completion on the day of Christ Jesus.”

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As Paul states in his prayer to the Philippians, he’s convinced that the work that God started in our lives will reach completion. 

 

The word completion can be defined as the process of finishing something. One synonym of the completion is achievement. 

 

We have to realize that every accomplishment is attached to a process. Jesus had to endure crucifixion before God called him to the throne. 

 

We also have to realize that there’s a purpose for the process. Jesus didn’t encounter death on the cross just to remain on the cross. He did it to save the world. 

 

God has the same intent for us. He doesn’t want us going through adversity just to go through it. He ultimately wants us to grow through it! 

 

The God’s Word Translation of 1 Corinthians 15:58 mentions the following: 

“So, then, brothers and sisters, don’t let anyone move you off the foundation ⌊of your faith⌋. Always excel in the work you do for the Lord. You know that the hard work you do for the Lord is not pointless.”

 

Nothing that we ever encounter or endure is useless. EVERY part of the process is necessary and contributes to our growth as men and women of God! That’s why we have to embrace every detail of God’s plan, and trust even the toughest trials of our life. 

 

After making the transition from employment to entrepreneurship, I entered into one of the toughest seasons of my life. I found myself in an unfamiliar place. 

 

I didn’t have the comfort zone of a salary, but I still had the same financial responsibilities. I found myself battling fatigue from making countless Uber trips, and managing an expanded life coaching roster while remaining committed to the calling on my life. 

 

I watched the woman that I wanted to marry become the weapon that tried to prosper against me. 

 

I realized that this was only a tough stretch of the race not the entire course. Our trials are designed to help us develop the necessary endurance to finish our race. Tough tasks are assigned to tough disciples! Not only can we handle them, our strength is enhanced from enduring them! 

 

Someone is counting on you to finish your race, in a similar fashion to us counting on Jesus to finish his. When I found out about a recent preaching opportunity, I went to sleep with great excitement but I woke up with a great headache. Although the headache could have been from not hydrating properly the day before, I believe it was designed to test the commitment to my calling.

 

Being assigned to a race doesn’t make you exempt from discomfort, and an injury doesn’t excuse you from your assignment! The commitment to your calling cannot be contingent upon your circumstances. This could be the reason that God hasn’t revealed your purpose or the resources to obtain it! 

 

God intentionally designed your calling with challenges attached to it. He wants to see your commitment to completing the race before revealing the next phase of the course! 

 

 

Don’t Turn Back 

As we embark on our journey to complete our assigned race, we have to resist the temptation to retreat from it. 

 

The final part of Hebrews 12:1 mentions the following:

 

“We must run the race that lies ahead of us and never give up.”

 

The God’s Word Translation of the second verse adds: 

 

“We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. He saw the joy ahead of him, so he endured death on the cross and ignored the disgrace it brought him. Then he received the highest position in heaven, the one next to the throne of God. Think about Jesus, who endured opposition from sinners, so that you don’t become tired and give up.”

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In order to complete our assigned race, we have to keep our focus on the source of our faith. We have to learn to keep our attention on the joy that awaits us instead of the pain behind us. Not only is Jesus the source of our faith, he's also the provider of the blueprint to finish our race. The key to completing the race is the ability to endure. The word endure can be defined as suffering with patience.

 

Not only did he suffer patiently on the cross, Jesus also had to endure opposition. In order to reach the throne that God has prepared for us, we have to endure our own struggle. There’s no elevation without endurance, and we can’t prosper without enduring the process. Every opportunity that we have will be attached to some form of opposition. 

 

As an unapologetic Christian, I will admit that this is easier said than done, but this still does not give us the right to quit on God or ourselves. Reflecting on my journey after accepting the call to ministry, I’ve had more than enough reasons to throw in the towel. 

 

Since the end of 2017... 

  • I’ve experienced homelessness 

  • Lost $1,000 due to a scam involving a fictitious house listing 

  • Fought tirelessly for a relationship that finally reached it’s breaking point this year

  • Experienced car repossession 

  • Watched my entire department get laid off in January (2018)

  • Had to get a boot removed from my car four days before leaving to speak in Kentucky 

  • Almost lost my apartment 

  • Battled chronic headaches and fatigue throughout the summer

  • Had to drive to an preaching assignment on a spare tire

  • Saw my brand and character slandered on Social Media

 

This was enough to make me figuratively untie my Air Max 720s, and forfeit my position in the race. 

The temptation to walk away from everything that God called me to do was higher than ever, but it didn’t make sense to quit a race that I’m supposed to win! 

 

Not only did God promise to complete the work that he started in you, he attached you to an huge victory through Christ. 

 

Romans 8:37 (New Living Translation)

“...despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.”

The word victory can be defined as the act of defeating an enemy or opponent in a battle. Knowing that I would eventually conquer the opposition that I’ve faced, I still had some questions for God...

 

  • How much longer do I have to endure pain?

  • Why did the woman I love decide to slander my name? 

  • How many more tears do I have to cry? 

  • How many more battles do I have to fight? 

  • How many paychecks until all of my bills are right?

  • How much longer until I meet my wife? 

 

After proposing these questions, he reminded me that the joy that awaits me will be greater than the pain I’m enduring. 

 

Romans 8:18 (The Message)

“That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times.

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This is a vital part of the blueprint to finish the race. We have to focus more on the joy that’s ahead than the circumstances in front of us. One of the things that I realized is that it’s difficult to see what’s ahead with a blurry vision. 

 

The word blur can be defined as something becoming unclear or recognizable. It becomes challenging to get excited about something that you can’t see clearly. 

 

Let’s look at how The Good News Translation captures Jesus healing a blind man in Bethsaida

 

Mark‬ ‭8: 23-26‬ 

“Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. After spitting on the man's eyes, Jesus placed his hands on him and asked him, “Can you see anything?” The man looked up and said, “Yes, I can see people, but they look like trees walking about.” 

 

Jesus again placed his hands on the man's eyes. This time the man looked intently, his eyesight returned, and he saw everything clearly. Jesus then sent him home with the order, “Don't go back into the village.”

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God knows that it’s difficult to walk by faith with a clouded sight. He understands that we are more prone to retreat from the race when we don’t recognize where we are headed. When we can’t see what’s ahead, we’ll either remain stagnant or retreat to a place of familiarity. You can’t be who you were and who God is calling you to be at the same time.

 

This is the reason that he uses certain circumstances to COMPLETELY restore our vision. When Jesus healed the blind man, it states that he saw everything CLEARLY

 

After Jesus healed this man, he gave him these instructions: 

 

“Don't go back into the village.”

 

We have to realize that our vision wasn’t restored for us to go back to what broke us. Our enhanced eyesight should be used to move forward, and to take the steps that God ordered for us! There’s a reason that God will heal us and leave the scars; to remind us of where we came from and why we can’t go back there.

 

I’ve wrestled with this for a while. I used my restored vision to go back to rescue what I felt that I lost. God reminded me that he wouldn’t allow me to lose something that he wanted me to have. 

 

God knew how bad that I wanted the narrative of my last relationship to be “Love Wins”. He reminded me that I couldn’t rewrite a story that he already wrote. After allowing God to take the pen and write the script for this chapter of my life, I realized that already he titled it: 

 

“Love Wins” 

 

Dear Carlton...

“Love does win because I loved you enough to not leave you in a place where you weren’t loved” - God

 

Dear Carlton...

“I know it hurts, but I couldn’t keep you with someone who could only honor you privately because of trying to humiliate you publicly.” - God

 

Dear Carlton...

“You can’t heal someone that thinks they are healthy” - God

 

Dear Carlton...

“I couldn’t let you chase someone that was running away from you!” - God

 

Dear God...

I don’t understand every part of your plan for my life, but I will always trust you!” - Carlton

 

Dear God...

Thank you for the things that broke my heart but fixed my vision! - Carlton 

 

When God allows our hearts to be broken, that’s an indicator that better things are ahead. Romans 8:18 reminds us of this.

 

It’s a heartbreaking experience to lose a job, but we have to remember that every job application and job offer brings us closer to the one that God wants us to have. 

 

The pain of being let go from a job could also be the push you need to start working towards entrepreneurship. 

 

Going through a breakup can be devastating, but your last relationship may reveal that you were settling for what you’ve always been used to. 

 

Just because you’ve always been in toxic relationships, and toxic is becoming the new norm doesn’t mean that it has to become your tolerated standard.

 

During a bible study over the summer, my Pastor (William Curtis) mentioned the following:

 

“Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional”

 

The pain from a fractured heart or fatigued spirit is inevitable, but this doesn’t mean we have to suffer or go back to what broke us just to feel temporary comfort. You don’t have to suffer living paycheck to paycheck. God restored your vision to show you that you are more than a salary or biweekly check.

 

He enhanced your eyesight to show you that your gift can make room for you, and potentially create another source of income. We have to realize that we’ll delay what’s coming if we continue to back to what God brought us from. You can’t get to the next chapter of your life if you are continuously going back to read or revisit the previous one.

 

God closed certain chapters of our lives for a reason. He’s planning to open doors that you never thought would open. As The Message Translation of Ephesians 3:20 states: 

 

“God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!”

 

God will open the right doors if we close the wrong ones in faith! 

 

Another reason that we are instructed to not go back to the village is because of it being a place that we have outgrown. If we truly desire to live the life that God has designed for us, we have to stop forcing what doesn’t fit or attempting to fit in where we don’t belong. 

 

I realized that I couldn’t stay connected to village ways with a kingdom assignment. Every level that we are assigned to requires an elevated version of us not an expired version. We can’t bring our old habits into our new season. 

 

The Message Translation of Luke 9:62 mentions the following: 

 

“Jesus said, “No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day.”

 

As Jesus mentioned to one of the disciples, we can’t procrastinate when it comes to completing the work assigned to us. The race that we’re in can’t be completed if we continue look back. To paraphrase the Good News Bible Translation of this same verse, we become useless to the Kingdom of God if we keeping looking back while attempting to complete our assignment! 

 

The word useless can be defined as not expected to achieve the intended purpose or desired outcome. God placed each of us in a race for a reason and it’s not to see how far we can run. 

 

The designed outcome is to complete the course and reach the finish line. This becomes difficult if we are more focused on what’s behind us than what is awaiting us. Disconnect from anything that’s keeping you from completing your race! 

 

Hebrews 12:1 (God’s Word Translation)

“Since we are surrounded by so many examples ⌊of faith⌋, we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially sin that distracts us.”

 

Divine Duty

 

Demonstration

The word duty can be defined as a commitment or expectation to perform a specific action in general or if certain circumstances arise. Although the goal is to finish the race, that’s not our only responsibility. 

 

Between the starting and finish line is an obligation that each of us have to meet before completing the course that we’re in, and as the definition states, it involves both commitment and expectation. One synonym of the word duty is calling. Not only do we have a calling on our lives, God is expecting us to complete it! 

 

This made me think about a book that I began reading last year titled, “Canoeing The Mountains”. The first chapter talked about the aspects of Christian Leadership that Seminary doesn’t prepare us for. 

 

Although I haven’t began my coursework at Seminary, I was able to relate to this. When I accepted the call to preach, there were things that I expected. I could imagine some fatigue from a few long nights of reading and writing, but there have been some things that I’ve encountered that couldn’t be simulated.

 

I couldn’t have predicted pursuing Pastoral Leadership dealing with extreme fatigue, financial problems, a fractured heart and having to ignore false stories being told about me. I definitely didn’t expect to feel tension around certain people within my own church.

 

After experiencing these things, it made me ask a few more questions: 

 

  • “Do I have to really have to complete my race in these conditions?”

  • “Did this journey have to include rumors about me and how my relationship ended?”

  • “Do I have to really run this race with a broken heart?”

 

This is the reason that I’ve cried tears of both humility and hurt. It’s an honor to be called and chosen by God, but the circumstances attached to my calling have been painful. Although my circumstances have presented great challenges, The divine answer to each one of my questions was, “YES”

 

The first part of John 10:10 (New Living Translation) mentions the following:

“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy.”

 

The enemy can’t change our destiny, but he can discourage us from getting there. We also have to remember that a thief’s plan will never prosper. 

 

Isaiah 54:17 (God’s Word Translation)

“No weapon that has been made to be used against you will succeed. You will have an answer for anyone who accuses you. This is the inheritance of the LORD’s servants. Their victory comes from me,” declares the LORD.”

 

This scripture reminds us that we have inherited victory from God! The word inheritance can be described as the right of possession. This means that we possess the right to the victory that God has prepared for us.

 

So this raises an important and frequently asked question: Why do we have to deal with difficulty on the path to our destined victory? 

 

One reason that we have to complete the race while facing challenging circumstances is to be a demonstration for someone else. I realized that someone needed to see me run and remain committed to my race while battling literal and figurative injuries. The reason our duty is attached to difficulty is to demonstrate that the power within us is greater than any task that we face. The strategy that you're using in your current season is going to be the blueprint for someone else in their next season! 

 

Jesus provided us the original blueprint in the Bible. He showed us how to handle betrayal (Matthew 20-25) and ridiculous rumors (Mark 3:22-27

 

He also showed us how to endure the wilderness, resist temptation (Matthew 4:1-11), and how to completely surrender to God’s Will (Matthew 26:39) on his way to the throne. The greatest thing that Jesus taught us was how ONE sacrifice can change the ENTIRE world (Matthew 27: 32-56)

 

One aspect of our divine duty is to be that demonstration for someone else. We have to remember that we are not exempt from anything that Jesus had to endure. If Jesus had to make a sacrifice, we are required to do the same. 

 

Think about this... 

What if Jesus quit during his journey to the throne? Not only would we lose the possession of victory, we would also lose our hope and roadmap to get there. The same applies to us. If we quit or forfeit our position in the race, someone watching from the outside doesn’t even attempt to start or finish theirs!

 

Even if you don’t realize it, you are someone’s blueprint and Hope Dealer! 

 

Development

This is the reason that our development carries great significance. If we don’t develop the endurance to finish the race, we'll delay our victory and steal hope from someone that is watching us. 

 

There’s a purpose for the assigned course between the starting point and the finish line of our race. It wasn’t designed just to fill the gap between the beginning and the end. 

 

It was designed to develop everything that we need to reach our final and future destination. That’s the reason we miss our in-between blessings because of being too focused on reaching the end of the race. 

 

Listen to the God’s Word Translation of James 1:2-4

“My brothers and sisters, be very happy when you are tested in different ways. You know that such testing of your faith produces endurance. Endure until your testing is over. Then you will be mature and complete, and you won’t need anything.”

This is the reason that we should embrace every encounter that we face. It will produce the endurance that we need to complete the race. The trials that I’ve faced this season initially made me uncomfortable, but I realized that they were designed to develop me for my next season. I understood that enduring the challenges and criticism at the ‘Minister’ level was helping me prepare to handle these things at a ‘Pastoral’ level. 

 

As the God’s Word Translation of Luke 12:48 states:

“...A lot will be expected from everyone who has been given a lot. More will be demanded from everyone who has been entrusted with a lot.”

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The reason that we shouldn’t be in a rush to finish the race is because of a strong desire to become the person that can handle everything that we are given. Our blessings may lose value if we don’t know how to manage or make the most out of them. 

 

We have to learn to grow through what we go through instead of just going through it. It’s very tempting to go through the process just to receive the promise, but God wants us to grow through the process to become the person that can handle everything attached to it!  

 

Here’s the good news....

You will finish the race. Focus on becoming the person that God wants you to be until you reach the finish line!

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