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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Are You Going To Finish Well?

Many years ago, as I was reading the book of Daniel, the Holy Spirit highlighted one particular verse.  Has that ever happened to you?  You are reading along and there is a spiritual highlighter that has been used by God to tell you, “Pay attention!”
            The context is the famous story of Daniel getting tossed into a den full of lions because he won’t compromise his worship of God by doing acts of worship toward the king of the day, Darius.  So Daniel’s enemies set him up to be discredited and removed.  Sounds like a modern day political tale, doesn’t it?
            There was a problem though.  The problem was Daniel had lived an exemplary life.  And here is where the spiritual highlighter comes in.

At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.” (Daniel 6:4, NIV) (emphasis mine)

            Here is what stuck out to me those many years ago.  Daniel’s integrity was intact because of what he did and what he didn’t do.  First, Daniel had integrity in what he didn’t do – he wasn’t corrupt.  I like to view myself as a realistic optimist.  Stuff happens but I try to believe in the best.  In the world I primarily live, the ministry world, I believe the vast majority of people engaged in vocational ministry are good-intentioned, God-pursuing people.  There are some people who go for the corruption route – they usually make a really big splash when they crash.  For most, it is fairly easy for us to reject corruption.  We don’t lie, steal, cheat, etc as a way of life.
            But what really struck me about this verse in Daniel’s story is the second part – “…nor negligent.”  Daniel not only didn’t do what was wrong, he didn’t shrink back from doing what was right.  And this is where I believe many of us can end up failing.  As I said, it is often easy to not do bad but it can be very difficult at times to do what is good when it is required.  And that is where Daniel’s life shone.  If I could put it another way, Daniel did the hard things.  Oh, and Daniel at this point in his life is probably about 70-80 years old.
            This Holy Spirit highlight came back to my mind in response to the recent headlines about Joe Paterno and the horrendous accusations of child sex abuse by one of his long-time assistant coaches.  Some ten years ago an intern saw an act of abuse by this man, reported it to Joe Paterno and he pushed it on up the administrative chain.  By all appearances it was pushed under the rug by the administration, allowing the alleged abuse to continue on for years against other boys.
            Paterno is a man of deep faith.  He is a man of honor.  His motto in his coaching was to “win with honor.”  He was the nation’s winningest and longest tenured major-college football coach.  He had the second highest graduation rate of players.  He has many, many awards and accolades to his name.  And he was fired.  Not for something he did.  But for something he didn’t do.  For most, the legacy Joe Paterno’s will be remembered for is what he didn’t do 10 years ago to hold someone accountable and protect young boys from a predator, not for his decades of coaching and leadership excellence, impacting literally thousands for good.
            We are leaders.  And, as Andy Stanley once said: “Leadership is stewardship.  It is temporary and you’re accountable.”  We are accountable for what we do.  And we are accountable for what we don’t do.  Maybe you are wrestling right now with the corruption side of things.  You are being tempted with your besetting sins, you are being tempted to compromise your beliefs and values for temporary gain.  It’s time to talk with Jesus and a friend.  Get it into the light because when it is in the dark, Satan is winning and he is preparing his plan to crush you.
            Perhaps more likely, there are some hard things you have been putting off doing.  You just don’t want to have the conflict, make the confrontation, take the time, be bothered with the details.  It is always easier to keep doing what we have always done than do something different.  Change is hard.  If this is the place you find yourself, it’s time to talk with Jesus and a friend.  You need a plan and you need some accountability.  In relationship with Jesus and others, you will have the strength to do the hard things - to do what is right.  One of my long-ago mentors, Bob Smith, would say to me over and over – “You do what is right because it is right.”
            It is hard to finish well.  Daniel did.  Jesus is the greatest example.  Meditate on these words and finish well.  Do the hard things.

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, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1–2, ESV)

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