Knowing what to do: 18 March 2014

Marco Basaiti’s ‘Christ Praying in the Garden’ demonstrates an integrity of colour of the figures and the arrangement of saints at the sides of the portico, of the apostles, with  Christ absorbed in prayer.

John 17 4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. 6 ‘I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.

Acts 20 22 ‘And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.

Jesus celebrated his victory even before he began his decisive battle. The dying still lay ahead of him, but the purpose of his life was all but finished. Learn this comforting lesson from him. Our confidence comes in knowing that we shall complete the tasks God has given us. Our trophy will be the inner reward which transforms our dying time into a celebration time.

The apostle Paul experienced an interesting metamorphosis in his view of death. In 1 Thessalonians he seems not to believe that he will die. He encouraged the church to remember that those who had already died before Jesus returned would be the first to be raised in the Second Coming. Then referring to his own future expectation, he continued, "We who are still alive at the Lord’s coming will certainly have no advantage over those who have fallen asleep" (4:15).

Consider, however, his view in 2 Timothy, written at a much later date: "I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time for my departure is close. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (4:6-7). Here he is saying that he is ready to receive the reward of his labour (4:8). Having finished the race is Paul’s way of saying what Jesus said: "I have completed the work you gave me to do.”

Lord, your Holy Spirit has taught me my calling. Now that I am in the world, for as long as I am in the world, I will seek to complete all that you have given me to do. How glorious must be your final "well done" to those who knew what you wanted done, and therefore never lacked purpose in their living.