I’ve recently returned from leading an Exposure Trip to Los Angeles with a group of senior high school students from our youth group.
It’s a trip we undertake bi-annually as we serve with The Dream Center, a street ministry reaching Skid Row and some of the challenging areas of LA, and as we seek to disciple teenagers into developing a greater worldview. This was the 5th trip we’ve taken, the first being in 2010.
We cover a lot of miles on these trips, and the participants like to listen to music while we traverse the freeways and city ways. In 2000 it was a matter of finding some CD’s to play in the vans we travel in. As each trip has evolved so has technology, with resulting increased data plans for participants mobile devices.
On this latest trip there was a constant demand to listen to multiple individualised playlists that had either been downloaded from a music streaming service using Starbucks free Wi-Fi or were streaming live while we travelled.
Over the course of two weeks I guesstimate we listened to a thousand songs – obviously an exaggeration, but you get the point. The question is, how many songs did we get to the end of? My guesstimate is three. Again, obviously not the proper answer, but you hopefully get the point.
If this group of teenagers are indicative of wider habits, the days of listening to an entire album, and from the beginning of a song to the end, seem to be well over.
This raises lots of challenges around communicating the Gospel story to the next generation, particularly because the best part of the story, and the part that brings it all together, occurs at the end. Will we ever get to the end of the story, or will we be stuck in the vivid imagery of the action-packed middle parts, the power of God in the world today, the grand chorus of resurrection and the vibrancy of the Day of Pentecost. This is all good stuff, but the best part is the definitely the ending.
Part of our discipleship journey is always going to be the learning and implementation of spiritual disciplines, or rhythms of learning and experiencing the presence of God that shape and deepen our faith over time. The spiritual disciplines, practices and rhythms include those of prayer, meditation, fasting, simplicity, fellowship, journaling, stewardship, or any number of others that can be variously described.
The Bible informs us about developing character over the long haul, about going the distance, about getting to the end. James chapter 1 verses 2-4 tells us to consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. Note that perseverance much finish its work, we must persevere until the end.
Paul writes in Romans chapter 15 verses 3-4, We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. The hope that Paul mentions is the hope of the long view, the understanding that the temporary will pass away to the eternal.
We also read in Hebrews chapter 12 verses 1-2. Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. The end view is Jesus at the right hand of the Father… the ending of the long story, the place we get to at end of our race, a race others have already run.
When we take a short-term view of our world, we miss out on the last act of God’s purposes that is both the most dramatic and the most exhilarating – the return of Jesus and the ushering in of the Kingdom of God that is vividly described in the book of Revelation in language that we cannot easily comprehend. But we do know that heaven will be much more than any word or image could describe.
The next time you’re thinking about the song of your life, remember to take the long view, to think about the ending and what has been promised to you; don’t take the short cut and move on too quickly, because the best is yet to come, and it never ends.
Grant Harris is the Senior Pastor of Windsor Park Baptist Church in Auckland, New Zealand, a sports chaplain, a husband to his first wife and a father of four young adult children. He’s learnt his greatest lessons through trying to rush through life and has realised this normally has short-changed his learning. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.