Begin with the End
Begin with the End
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The axiom that “we should begin with the end in mind” seems to be simple common sense. If I begin a journey without the end in mind, I risk ending up in a bad place, driving in circles, or becoming the next Forrest Gump – simply running until dirt turns to ocean and then turning and running the other direction with nothing more in mind. And yet, many of us live that way when it comes to very important elements of our lives.


King David wrote, “ Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life”(Ps.39:4). David’s prayer is prompted by the knowledge that life goes by incredibly fast and that every day should be lived with great intentionality. He wanted God to remind him to live each day mindful of his priorities and purpose.
That would be an excellent prayer for us as well. In the end, what do you want to be able to say about your relationship with God, your spouse, and your children? What do you want to be able to say about the mark you left on other people and the world around you? What do you want to be able to say about how you fulfilled God’s purposes for your life?


By temperament, I am not wired to set concrete goals and stay on task. I can be a rabbit chaser and enjoy the chase. If I’m not careful, I can let daily circumstances and other people constantly set my agenda. When I do, my priorities suffer. Days and weeks can go buy without me investing in the most important things. If, however, I partner with God’s Spirit to think about how I want to finish my life or what I want my life (my marriage, my family, my ministry, my health, my finances, etc.) to look like in ten years, I can begin to lay in strategies that will get me where I want to go.


In my church, we talk a lot about being Spirit-led. Some believers think that the Spirit leads only with spontaneous and unexpected moments, as if long term planning and staying on course is not spiritual. Although the Spirit may reveal tasks on the spur of the moment, he is still the ultimate long-term planner whose priorities never waiver. Although, Jesus seemed to have days filled with spontaneous and unexpected moments, he always knew where he was headed and what his priorities were. First of all, he had to preach the gospel to the cities of Israel. On numerous occasions, Jesus would simply leave in the middle of a “successful meeting” while the crowds were clamoring for more and go somewhere else to preach because he had a clear agenda to preach to more cities and a limited amount of time in which to do so. At other times, he would leave the crowds who were hungry to hear more and go off by himself to refuel with the Father because he knew that the days ahead would demand that close relationship.


Eventually, he knew that to finish his mission, he would have to submit to rejection and accusation along with crucifixion and would have to do so with faith, love and forgiveness on his lips. He began the final three years of his life with two preparatory events: his baptism that brought the anointing of the Spirit and forty days of fasting in the wilderness. He and the Father began with the end in mind. The Holy Spirit and a disciplined flesh would be required to finish well and to fulfill his primary purpose in life. Knowing how he wanted to end his life, he received the things that would prepare him for the final hours. He did not dodge or resent the heat or the hunger of the desert nor the temptations Satan dangled before him. Those moments were strengthening him to fulfill his purpose. Even in the spiritual realm, a process of growth and development is by far the norm rather than a full-blown and immediate impartation of maturity and gifts. Gifts, positions, and opportunities that run ahead of character are dangerous.


King Saul was anointed by Samuel and made king over Israel in a short period of time. He had not been trained to be king or even a leader of men. His sudden responsibilities and power led to numerous disasters for himself, his family, and his country. Proverbs declares that the “earth trembles when a slave becomes king.”   That is true when the slave has not been prepared for a wise exercise of power, wealth, and leadership.


The very thing a person wants can destroy him or her if the individual is not prepared to steward those things well. Many people who have suddenly become wealthy through the lottery are prime examples. The very wealth they thought would make them happy destroyed their lives. The same can be true of us if we are given gifts or positions for which we are not prepared. Preparing ourselves for the use of gifts and positions of leadership avoids the disasters. Preparing ourselves for relationships we desire also avoids disasters. When we contemplate the end or the goal, we can “reverse engineer” what it will take to get there. We can pray into the goal, align ourselves with mentors, obtain training, and develop the character traits that we will need to succeed.


Too often, we just wait on the Lord to fulfill a prophetic word spoken over us, to supernaturally gift us, or to place us in a position of leadership without envisioning how we would want to lead, exercise the gift, or live out the prophecy. As a result, we don’t set priorities, equip ourselves, or develop strategies for growing into the vision we have for our lives. Too often, we neglect the most important priorities in our lives, thinking that we can focus on those later when we are not so busy. But life goes by quickly. David said, “ how fleeting is my life,” and when you hit the sixty mark you feel it going by at light speed. You also realize how little time you gave to the most important things because the lesser, non-eternal issues of life kept you so busy.


Let me encourage you to take time on a regular basis to think about where you want to be in ten years or even at the end of your life. What do you want your relationship with God and your spiritual life to look like? What do you want your marriage or your relationship with your children or your ministry to be like? How do you want to be able to describe your physical health or your finances? Even more importantly, what would God want those things to look like?


Once you are clear on the end product you want, its not that hard to know what you need to be doing now to get there. You might even get a small group of trusted friends together who begin to envision those things for their own lives and then each of you can encourage one another and keep one another on track over the next twelve months or a lifetime, while you consistently build some things into your life that will take you where you want to go and where God wants you to go.

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