UPDATED Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Barry Kang who heads Symphony Church in Boston, is an updated version of his blog first posted on September 17, 2014. He is a graduate of Stanford University (BA), Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (D.Min.).
Devotional Thought for This Morning
“Starting is Easy—Finishing is What Counts”
Ecclesiastes 7:8-9 (ESV)
Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. 9 Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools.
I love to go to Home Depot. There is something about purchasing the materials and tools needed to start a home improvement project that makes me feel “handy,” even though I’m not really “handy.” And sometimes I will start a project and never finish it, but I still give myself partial credit for starting. For example, I might make plans for Symphony Church, but never implement them; I still give myself credit for even thinking about it. Oh, the absurdity of the human condition!
We are all capable of beginning something, for it’s quite easy. Beginning appeals to our sense of pride and ambition, but finishing it is much harder. We need more than pride or ambition to finish; finishing requires patience:
- The patience to fight through difficult circumstances.
- The patience to do hard and sometimes inglorious work.
- The patience to resist getting angry when our pride or ambition is thwarted.
Every beginning holds the seductive promise of glory, while finishing requires endurance and humility. Though I lack in patience, our God does not; He is patient and enduring. Furthermore, God is the furnisher of the patience we need to finish what He would have us start. Thank God that Jesus finished his mission! Thank God that Jesus cried out, “Let your will be done!” in the Garden of Gethsemane, and He finished every step needed to walk to the cross! Thank God that on the cross, it was finished!
“Therefore . . ., let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:1b-2). In that spirit, let’s finish what we have begun whether at home, work, or church.
Prayer: Father, this morning, I place myself in your hands. I know that I am driven by pride and my own ambition, but I want to have Your patience and humility. I look to Your cross again and surrender myself to Your finished work. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 44
Lunch Break Study
Read Luke 14:25-33: Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
Questions to Consider
- Why is it important to “count the cost” before taking on a task?
- Why did Jesus stress the need to “count the cost” of following Him?
- Are there any costs to following Jesus that you have not counted?
- Being unprepared for a task leads to failure. Generally, it’s better to stop yourself rather than begin something without being prepared. Take the examples in this passage: Think of the waste in starting to build a tower and then stopping because you are unable to finish it. All the time and resources put into the building are wasted. Or likewise, for a king going to war, if he doesn’t first prepare and assess the battle, he will lose the war and suffer much casualty.
- Following Jesus is demanding, for there will be challenges as well as sufferings. Christ warns us of this, which is why we need to count the cost beforehand and prepare ourselves for the challenges. If not, then we will find ourselves falling away as pressure mounts. Counting the cost helps us to prepare for the battle of faith and enables us to persevere despite the oncoming obstacles.
- Take this time to reflect on your spiritual walk: What unexpected challenges have you faced? How did these affect you? After thinking through what you believe it means to follow Jesus, develop ways to prepare yourself. We know challenges will come; Jesus assured us of that! But He also assured us that He will be with us to the very end of the age. Let His presence be your strength as you prepare for the challenges of obedience to the gospel.
Have you started anything recently that you haven’t finished? Have you made any commitment to God that you have not followed through? What is stopping you? As we journal, let us surrender to Him anything the Holy Spirit brings to our minds.