It's Not Over
It's Not Over
You could have heard a pin drop. It was mesmerising. We were spellbound. An eighty-five-year-old man, almost totally blind, got up to speak to 1,500 people of all ages on our church holiday. He had no notes, of course, because he could no longer read. He gave two talks, each of them an hour long.
In the first talk, he gave a breathtaking summary of the entire Old Testament. In the second, which was equally brilliant, he gave a summary of the whole of the New Testament. There was no hesitation, no stumbling and not a word was out of place. It was the distilled wisdom of a man who had followed the Lord wholeheartedly all his life.
Bishop Lesslie Newbigin had one of the most remarkable ministries of the twentieth century. At the age of thirty-six he was elected as one of the first bishops of the new Church of South India. When he returned from India, later on in life, he wrote several books that aimed to help the church in the West fulfil its mission in a world that was rapidly changing and felt no need for God.
His writing and speaking influenced thousands of Christian leaders around the world. Yet for this astonishing man, who had achieved so much in his life, it was not over. He entitled his autobiography Unfinished Agenda. For him, there was always still so much to hope for and so much more to be done.
It is never over for a visionaryPsalm 52:1-9
How do you react in the midst of tragedy and opposition? It is tempting to panic, withdraw, lose hope or even give up.
David was a visionary. Vision has been defined as a combination of ‘a deep dissatisfaction with what is and a clear grasp of what could be’. If you have vision, you will always be able to say, ‘It’s not over.’
David achieved so much in his lifetime. Yet, he had to deal with the reality of opposition. This psalm was written after a devastating setback. David had been on the run from Saul, but his location had been betrayed by ‘Doeg the Edomite’. Although David had moved on by the time Saul’s men arrived, his friend Ahimelek, and almost all of Ahimelek’s family, had been killed (see 1 Samuel 21–22).
In this psalm we see how he had to deal with those who were trying to destroy him by ‘deceit’ (Psalm 52:2c), ‘falsehood’ (v.3b) and ‘harmful word[s]’ (v.4a). David may be describing Doeg. He was like the man described in verse 7 ‘who did not make God their stronghold but trusted in his great wealth and grew strong by destroying others!’ This has a very contemporary ring to it.
Yet, even in the midst of such tragedy and opposition, David did not despair or give up. He sees that, with God, it is not over. It is not over for Doeg: ‘God will bring you down to everlasting ruin’ (v.5a). And it is not over for David: ‘I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God’ (v.8a). David turns to God. What can we learn from his response?
- Trust in God’s love
‘I trust in God’s unfailing love forever and ever’ (v.8b). God’s love will never fail.
- Praise God’s deeds
‘I will praise you forever for what you have done… I will praise you in the presence of your saints’ (v.9a). Until God opens the door, praise him in the hallway.
- Hope in God’s name
‘In your name I will hope, for your name is good’ (v.9b). With God, however bad your circumstances look, it is not over. Put your hope in God’s name.
Lord, thank you for the dreams and visions that you put into my heart. As I face all the challenges ahead and the opposition, may I trust in your unfailing love and put my hope in you for the future.
It is not over for JesusLuke 24:36-53
When Jesus died on the cross, it looked as bad as it could possibly be. It looked like it was all over for him and his followers.
But it was not over. God had not finished. He raised Jesus to life again. In this passage we see that Jesus appears to his disciples and says, ‘Peace be with you’ (v.36). They still seem ‘troubled’ and have their ‘doubts’ (v.38). Jesus gives them very solid proof that he really is alive.
‘Look at my hands; look at my feet – it’s really me. Touch me. Look me over from head to toe. A ghost doesn’t have muscle and bone like this’ (v.39, MSG).
Jesus is more than a historical figure who was born and died 2,000 years ago. He is alive. He is here and present today.
When the disciples realise that Jesus really is alive, they are overcome with ‘joy’ and ‘amazement’ (v.41). Having eaten a piece of leftover fish (v.42) he says to them, ‘Everything I told you while I was with you comes to this: All the things written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets, and in the Psalms have to be fulfilled’ (v.44–47, MSG).
When Jesus showed them ‘how to read their Bibles this way’ (v.45, MSG), he set the pattern for us. This is why you should always try to read the Old Testament Scriptures through the lens of Jesus.
Jesus had totally fulfilled this part of his mission, which had been foretold in the Old Testament. Yet, the agenda of Jesus was unfinished.
His disciples had a task: ‘Repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem’ (v.47). Now, you and I, his disciples, have the task of telling ‘all nations’ about Jesus – speaking about repentance and forgiveness of sins (v.47). For this part of his agenda you are going to need the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promises that you will be ‘clothed with power from on high’ (v.49).
Having set out his new agenda, Jesus ‘lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven’ (vv.50–51). It is interesting that after he had been taken up to heaven and he was not physically present they then worshipped him (v.52a), knowing that he was still with them. They then returned to Jerusalem, ‘bursting with great joy’ (v.52b, MSG). The end of Jesus’ time with them was also a very exciting beginning.
On the day of Pentecost, they received what Jesus had promised. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to take on this new agenda of Jesus. All over the world today, Jesus’ agenda is being carried out by his disciples. It is far from finished. You and I can play a part in completing Jesus’ unfinished agenda. It’s not over yet. One day it will be finished and then Jesus will return.
Lord, may I give my life to serve your great, unfinished agenda. Thank you that the Holy Spirit equips me and empowers me for this task.
It is never over for those who ‘finish well’Joshua 13:1-14:15
Those who finish well will always have an unfinished agenda. You will be able to say, ‘It’s not over.’
Again, we see this theme of the ‘unfinished agenda’ in the life of Joshua: ‘When Joshua had reached a venerable age, God said to him, “You’ve had a good, long life, but there is a lot of land still to be taken”’ (13:1, MSG).
Be inspired by Joshua’s example. He followed the Lord wholeheartedly. So did Caleb, who was able to say, ‘I, however, followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly’ (14:9). ‘He gave himself totally to God’ (v.14, MSG).
Not only did Caleb follow God wholeheartedly at the age of forty (v.7), he still did so at the age of eighty-five (v.10 – the same age that Lesslie Newbigin was when he gave those astonishing talks). This is the challenge – to finish well, not to lose your first love but to keep your eyes on Jesus.
The result for Caleb was ‘strength’ – Caleb was able to say, ‘I’m still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out’ (v.11). For him it was physical strength as well as inward strength of character. But for all who give themselves totally to God there is the inward strength of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus promises to you and me. You need this inner strength of the Holy Spirit if you are to finish well and fulfil your calling to seek the fulfilment of Jesus’ new agenda.
Lord, help me to finish well. May I be able to say at the end of my life, ‘I have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.’ Please fill me with the inner strength of the Holy Spirit as I seek to see Jesus’ new agenda fulfilled and the gospel preached in his name to all nations.
‘Look at my hands and my feet.’
On one of our trips to India we were asked to speak to some of the staff from the Oberoi and the Taj Mahal hotels. Both hotels had been the targets of terrorist attacks in November 2008. Many had died; others were injured. Many of the staff had endured trauma – hiding during the siege and seeing their friends and hotel guests shot in front of them.
As I stood up before them, I felt overwhelmed by their pain and the trauma that they had been through, and so inadequate. As I searched for words, I recalled this passage – that Jesus stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you’ (v.36) and showed them his hands and his feet. Even after his resurrection he still carries the scars of his suffering into eternity.
Verse of the Day
‘Peace be with you’ (Luke 24:36).
John Stott, Issues facing Christians Today, (Zondervan, 2006) p.368.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.