In the Gospel of John 19:30, the memorable, iconic, and chilling words of Jesus were spoken from the cross: “It is finished.” A lifetime of living on this earth among people who in every case were sinners and enemies of God. These people in one way or another participated in Jesus being led to the cross, lifted up before the crowds, and for six hours suffered our sin penalties and pains and all of sins repercussions were laid on him. Now the time has come that the finished payment for our sin was complete and Jesus would die. He cried, “It is finished.” To spend time at the foot of the cross and think about what Jesus did and what He said is an unceasing, amazing, overwhelming, and moving experience. It is finished.
While in no way at all a comparable experience and for reasons I don’t know, as I sat at the final session of the 2019 Mississippi Baptist Convention annual meeting last week, the words of Jesus from the cross flowed through my heart and my mind: “It is finished.” The 2019 annual meeting has been completed, and though I will continue to serve in my present role for a brief time, it will be the final convention at which I participate as the executive director-treasurer of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board. It is finished came to my mind, and I thought about the exalted, high calling of Jesus, the servant Savior, giving His all for us, and then it was finished. For me, an infinitesimally smaller participant in Kingdom work, I realized the time of finishing had also come for me. In what ways? Well, let me suggest to you four ways that for me, it is finished.
First, the convention meeting itself was finished. For over 21 years, I have had the privilege of working with men and women across Mississippi Baptist life as the Order of Business Committee each year worked and struggled and gave their best that was poured into a couple of days of worship and reports and challenges and celebrations. It was no easy task for them and I had the joy of working alongside them. Year after year, I watched and rejoiced in their efforts and achievements. The convention of 2019 was a major effort and, session after session, an incredible experience. Oh, I will attend other conventions if I am here on this planet, and I will rejoice and enjoy what new leadership and what new ideas will come to the floor and flow through the body of Christ in a convention session — but for me, it is finished.
Secondly, and on a different note, the committees and committee meetings are finished. As a pastor and then serving with the Convention Board, I have spent a good deal of my time meeting with committees whether in church or on statewide committee levels, and I can only report to you that Baptists love committees. As most of you are well aware, we have a Committee on Committees. I remember as a pastor, on occasion I tried to form a committee at a church to study getting rid of some of the committees. The efforts failed. Committees do a great work and I have seen it up close and personal from every elevation, and I’m ever amazed at how God can bring about such great and noble things out of the chaotic thinking that sometimes occurs in committee actions and reactions.
As you think about it, if you have five or six or ten or twelve people gathered together for a committee process, you’ve got a room filled with people who have different backgrounds; different levels of understanding and knowledge about what they are going to be dealing with; different filters that have affected their feelings about all the stuff that they are going to be dealing with; and a totally different circle of influences and people and experiences that come to the table. Those are not bad things and in the midst of all of that, we pause to ask God to guide us and He does. I’ve often thought about what some people refer to as another verse in the Bible (but really isn’t) that says, “Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape.” It’s a good verse to carry to a committee meeting for every one of us.
I was thinking as those words from Jesus were bouncing around in my brain that I am not appointed to, elected by, or serving on any committee, anywhere in Baptist life as of today. It is finished. I remember years ago, a dear friend of mine who had served in Southern Baptist life and leadership told he was asked by someone, “What are you going to do?” He responded, “I’m going to walk.” “Walk?” “Yes, walk.” “What do you mean?” “Well, I’m just going to start walking and after I’ve walked a day or so, I’m going to stop and ask the people that I run into wherever I am, ‘Do you know what a committee is?’ If they answer me, ‘Oh, yes,’ and they begin to explain what committees are and do, I’m going to keep on walking. Day after day I’ll pause and ask the same question and when I come to a place where, when I ask, ‘Do you know what a committee is?’ and they say, ‘I don’t know what you are talking about,’ that’s where I’m going to stop.” That’s a light thought about a significant thing in our Baptist life, and I thank God for the hundreds of men and women who have served faithfully on committees and will do so into the future — but for me, it is finished.
Third, the calls are finished. I’m talking about the calls that have come close to convention time. Some calls are so positive and encouraging and uplifting and others, not so much but maybe needy and possibly even complaining. Those calls that always come in one frame or another are finished. Honestly, that’s what I thought as I sat in that last session of the convention, but I discovered a few hours later that some of the calls continued and for that, I am grateful. At times there’s no need expressed at all, and it’s just a friendly call from a dear soul.
Other times it is a desperate call and occasionally a call for help and support. Calls can be blessings, and I think they are not finished.
Fourth, challenges are finished. This thought was quickly booted not by someone but by the avalanche of thoughts that came to my heart reminding me of what we had just experienced in the convention and the challenge that came from Bible studies that pierced to the center of our hearts. The challenge that came from our outgoing convention president, Mark Vincent, in his address to God’s people. The challenge that was given to every one of us in the convention sermon by Greg Warnock that exalted Christ and what He has done for us. The great worship moments that involved singing, great choirs and praise teams, solos, and orchestras, all of which pounded on our hearts and reminded me of James’ word to us, “Be ye doers of the word and not hearers only” (James 1:22).
Before the session was over and we walked out, I was reminded that for me — I was reminded that for us — the time and the work is not finished and that for all of us it is not finished. There is still work to be done. There is still service to be rendered, souls to be reached, and a faithfulness that must be lived out by us today and tomorrow and tomorrow and for us His calling on our lives and the opportunity to serve Him is not finished until He says, “It is finished.”
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Jim Futral