We’ve all been taught that it’s not how we start but how we finish that counts. Likewise we’ve been taught that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. While the theme of this message is finishing strong, I want to let you know it’s just as important to start strong.
2 Timothy 4:7-8 – 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
When Jesus began His earthly ministry, He first sought affirmation through baptism. After the Holy Spirit descended upon Him and God audibly blessed Him, He was led into the desert for a period of consecration – or setting apart – by fasting and being tested by the devil.
Understand that when you embark upon something for God, you will be confirmed in your efforts (if it is, indeed, from God) and you will encounter opposition! The late, great preacher, J. Vernon McGee, once said, “If you never encounter opposition, you and the devil are probably moving in the same direction!”
In our walk of faith, we all will have a fight to fight and a race to run. It is important that we remain focused on our divine objective and not the situations and circumstances around us.
A great athlete, fighter, runner, or other must be focused in order to succeed. We press toward the mark – but what is that mark? The mark, or objective of the Christian life is to manifest the love and power of God
Hebrews 12:1-2 – 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, 2 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.
You cannot finish strong while carrying baggage. Sir Colin Chapman, the great British race-car designer said the first objective in the engineering of any competitive vehicle is to “add lightness.” Indeed, most athletes, with the exception of weightlifters and sumo wrestlers try to shed weight to be competitive.
In our race in Christ, we must lay aside the baggage of our past. God says He remembers our sins no more, so why do we? God has given us Jesus as the payment for our sins, so He forgives us. It is incumbent upon us, then, to forgive ourselves. Moreover, we must learn to forgive others as God has forgiven us.
The Bible tells us that straight is the way and narrow is the gate into the Kingdom of God; we cannot effectively enter into the things of God carrying unnecessary spiritual baggage!
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 – 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self- control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
The race in Christ is not a sprint, rather, it is a marathon. We must train by praying, studying the Word of God, and fasting. Then we exercise our faith by working it practically in our lives. What happens when we get sick? What happens when we experience difficulties with people? What happens when we have financial difficulties? These are all areas where we can all work out and strengthen our faith!
We must remember that our life in Christ is not shadowboxing. We wrestle not with flesh and blood but against principalities, powers, and spiritual wickedness in high places. In order to wrestle victoriously against these spiritual strongholds, we must boldly exercise our faith – in other words, we must learn to walk the walk, not just talk the talk!
Habakkuk 2:2 – And the Lord answered me: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.
I’m leery of anything that is so complicated that it cannot be used practically. Now, I cannot explain all the technological nuances of an iPhone or an iPad, but I can effectively explain how to use it. Likewise, I cannot explain God completely, but I know that He’s given us His Word so we can boldly and simply live out His plan and purpose for us.
Preparation is essential. In order to effectively prepare, we must translate our dreams into plans. Joseph, as we recall, was a dreamer. However, when he went before pharaoh, he presented a plan. God honors plans, not dreams. When Nehemiah went to repair the walls at Jerusalem, he had a vision from God that he translated into a plan.
In the coming year, make it a point to take the visions and dreams God gives you and write them down. Take time to pray over and contemplated them. Ask God to give you a plan to execute the dream. Write down your plan in as much detail as you can muster but make it as simple as possible, so you can memorize it and recall it instantly.
Any preacher worth his or her salt can prepare a tasty Sunday buffet from the Word of God. That enables the hearers to engorge themselves on the Word at that time. But what happens in the hours after they leave church? Indeed, what happens on Monday – and all the days remaining until the next Sunday? What we need to provide are “box lunches” that the hearers are able to consume for their spiritual sustenance throughout the week.
The Word of God must be preached with boldness and simplicity, and in demonstration of the power of God in order to be effective.
John 17:4 – I have glorified You down here on the earth by completing the work that You gave Me to do.
At the end-of-the-day, it is only what we do for God that will last. Jesus understood what it meant to finish strong. From the time He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane to the Cross at Calvary, Jesus knew how to close! He knew that not only persecution, but torture and death were forthcoming. For our sakes, He endured the Cross, despising the shame.
I think one of the key success factors for finishing strong is a clear understanding of purpose. I would challenge each one of you to get before God in prayer and have Him reveal His purpose to you. Once you understand your purpose, you can receive your divine assignment(s). As you complete your divine assignment(s), you give God glory and walk into your divine destiny.
It is critical that as we approach another year-end, that we remember the importance of finishing strong. When my sons and I run in the morning, when we get to the last leg of our run, I tell them to “turn-and-burn;” run at full-speed for that last segment. I tell them that to teach them how to finish strong. But during the run, I stress the importance of keeping a steady pace, being mindful of what goes on around us but not to the point of being distracted from our goal.
© 2012 – Derrick Day (www.derrickday.com)