When am I finished?
It's an empty suit. In this context the empty suit isn't a political statment or a metaphor for the superficiality of the age. Any reference to the rapture of the church is also unintended. It's used here to depict the time when we're not here anymore. Yes, I could have pictured a grave site or a casket or a flat line ultrasound. Even though death is a reality for each of us they were just a little too gruesome for what I want to cover today. So, here's the empty suit. It represents the time when we're finished with the purpose for which he created us.
Finishperiod.com is a niche web site aimed at those called apart as career mission workers. That would include pastors, church staff, those in denominational work, missionaries, and many individuals in non-profit service or para-
church ministry. With 1,700 pastors, not to include other menionted positions, leaving ministry every month, it seems a worthy subject to examine, when's he's really finished with us.
And, of course, the answer is when we're no longer here. That coming from a baby boomer isn't all that odd, since us boomers are "Generation Ageless", a great book by J. Walter Smith and Ann Clurman. They indicate that a particular trait of the boomer cohort is that they never plan to quit. And, that's about the sum of it, though my thoughts are calculated by Scripture and not by generational dynamics. The fact is, God isnt finished with us until he's finished with us. At that time, we're not here anymore. Note the empty suit.
Interestingly enough, the first verses of Luke's second book tell us exactly that in the life and mission of Jesus. Yes, he announced on the cross. "It is finished" (John 19:30), the final word on the fulfilment of God's redemptive plan for mankind. Then Luke begins the Acts, "In the first book, O Theolophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen (Acts 1:1-2, ESV). We will note that Jesus continued the Father's business until "...he was taken up...". There were commands he needed to leave with his chosen disciples. We cannot know the details of all that he told them. They are not recorded in depth. Perhaps he gave them commands regarding the church and the future. We know he told them not to try to figure out the metrics of his return. It is also apparant he told them that they would be filled with power and then be his witnesses. The point is that he continued to instruct them till he was no longer among them.
He had warned them often about the difficulty of following him and the hardships of serving him. Jesus never missed an opportunity to speak to them frankly about the hazards ahead. He promised them peace and joy and power and victory. But, each of those promises were given under the cloak of difficulty, service, pain, persecution, even death. So, now, two milennia later we know that ministry service is hard. Legend has it that management guru Peter Drucker said serving a local church is the fourth hardest job in America, behind POTUS, President of a University, and Chief Administrator of a hospital. And, I thoroughly agree. My thirty five years in the pastorate were difficult at every turn. There are plenty of blessings too. But, sometimes the hardness smothers us to the point that we walk away.
God isn't finished with us till we're with him. And, not just people serving in Christian ministry either. There are incredible testmonies of how God has used reserved, quiet, unheralded people to touch the lives of many. There are many urban legends about the ways children, people with Alzheimers disease, disabled veterans, retired school teachers, and so many others have influenced the people around them. More, I can make a long list right here of ministers I know who are serving him in a new field after hard times in the church. He isn't done with us till he's done with us. And, as I've said over and over again, the test for that is just a pulse check.
The book I'm reading about boomers says that we re-wire rather than retire. I guess that's true since I'm trying to take my passions into another direction. I'm aiming this site at ministers. But, the finishperiod.com material is truth and can be applied to just about every venue of our lives--- work, marriage, relationships, parenting, family.
The big deal today is that he isn't finished with you as long as you have breath.
That means you. Now.