I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. -The Apostle Paul, Second Timothy 4:7
We will all have a dash. Some will be long. Some will be too short. Some will be honoured. Some will be filled with regret. A few will have one that will cause many to be deeply and eternally thankful. On every tombstone there appears a birth date, a dash, and a life-on-earth end date.
¶ Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us Hebrews 12:1
Many people waste their dash. Fear, hurt, or laziness can each be the cause a person's dash being wasted. But God created us to be courageous, free, and powerfully creative. He has placed within deep longings that actually require courage. When was the last time you did something for the first time? Doing something for the first time takes a bit of courage and often trust. A Daddy smiles at his two-year old, claps his hands, and tells his child to jump from the 'great height' into his waiting arms. Almost without exception the child responds with a shrill of delight and a leap! But as we get older, our ability to take more leaps becomes more difficult for us. We fear. But we probably fear because we've been hurt. "I'll never try that again!" is phrase we should probably be a little more careful with because sometimes hurtmakes us stronger, wiser, better, and therefore more likely to succeed if we will but try again! Take courage and make your dash a courageous dash!
For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control. Second Timothy 1:7
I think there's a powerful spiritual application here. Too many people regard their Christianity as something they did rather than who they are. Too many people regard Church as a place they go rather than who they are part of. You don't go to church on Sunday - the church comes together on Sunday! And by so doing, we realign our lives toward God through worship, we reimagine the grandeur of God through celebration of the ordinance of the Lord's Table, we refresh our spirits through the shared gifts of the Holy Spirit, and we renovate our minds through the teaching of God's Word. All of this means that when the church comes together every individual has their dash significantly enhanced.
Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. First Peter 4:10
Our dash is seriously enhanced by deepening our spiritual life. After all, when we take courage and seek God for a closer relationship with Him so that we can move on past our hurts and receive the strength to rise up to life's challenges, the immediate result is that others benefit. When we consider Jesus, the spiritually deepest person who has ever walked the earth, we notice that His dash was infinitely profound as measured by His impact on others. The deeper we become spiritually - when we prioritise time with God in His Word, take the time to pray for ourselves and others, give of our time/talent/treasure to bless others, the more others benefit.
Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ...And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.Galatians 6:2, 9
YOUR LIFE IS YOUR "DASH"
The purpose of your life is not holidays, renovating your house, fishing, sleeping in, watching a screen, or even eating. You were designed by God to leave a great dash. It is God's will for your life to flourish, prosper, and find great fulfilment. When we let God have His way in our lives and cooperate with His Spirit to grow as a deeper follower of Christ, we are setting our lives up to leave behind a great dash.
¶ Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul. 3John 2
Being a spiritually deep person doesn't mean that our dash is difficult, boring, and religious. On the contrary, and by all means, we should live life to the full. Travel, explore, learn, love, build, play, taste, and meet as much as you can. But all the while, help others in the process. The more your life blesses others the more your dash will one day be seen by others with great fondness, appreciation, and thankfulness. I suspect this is why the Apostle Paul could look back over his 65 years or so of life just before he was executed and tell his younger protégé Timothy -
¶ For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. Second Timothy 4:6-8
Paul left behind a remarkable dash. I am an eternally grateful beneficiary of his dash. It is my pastoral desire to help you however I can to leave the best dash behind that you can. I've said it many times that my job as a pastor is to help people to die well and the best way we can achieve that is to live well. I pray that your life will one be a great dash! Amen. Ps. Andrew