Finish Strong

Quite frequently, I’ll hear a sermon or teaching or read an article or blog post and think to myself, “I wish I had thought of that.” This happened recently while listening to Nino Guarisco speak at my church.

Nino and his wife Tammy serve as missionaries to the students at the University of Michigan. You can connect with Nino on, on their web site, or on Twitter @theitaliandude.

The following post comes from the notes I took when Nino spoke. While the wording, arrangement and some details are mine, Nino gets full credit for the main idea and scripture application. I truly do wish I would have thought of this!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~7-25-13 run

What do Chuck Templeton, Braun Clifford & Billy Graham have in common? Before even attempting an answer, you might be saying, “Who are Chuck Templeton and Braun Clifford?” And, asking that question is actually the point. No one remembers them.

Let’s take a minute to answer the question though. Chuck Templeton, Braun Clifford and Billy Graham have the following in common:

  • They were all in their mid 20’s in the 1940’s.
  • All began their ministries around the same time.
  • All began their preaching through Youth for Christ.
  • They were all well-known with good reputations in the 1940’s.

Here’s where the similarities end. Now consider the following…

  • In 1946 Chuck Templeton and Braun Clifford were featured in an article titled “The Best Young Men Used of God” published by the National Association of Evangelical. The article did not mention Billy Graham.
  • At age 25, Braun Clifford was preaching to thousands upon thousands of people everywhere he went.
  • Because of his good looks, Braun Clifford was invited to play the part of Marcella in the famous motion picture “The Robe.”
  • Chuck Templeton left ministry to become a journalist and by 1950 was agnostic.
  • By 1954, Braun Clifford lost his family and his health and became an alcoholic. At age 35, he was found dead of siroccos of the liver in a rundown motel in Texas.

People don’t know who Braun Clifford or Chuck Templeton are today. But, they certainly know Billy Graham.

The point? How you start doesn’t matter. Even the middle doesn’t matter too much. At least, they don’t matter if you fail to finish strong.

Consider Solomon

In the beginning of his life, Solomon asked God for wisdom (1 Kings 3:1-15). In the middle of Solomon’s life, God once again reminded Solomon of staying focused and not letting his attentions wander from God (1 Kings 9:1-9). But sadly, at the end of Solomon’s life, he did in fact turn his attention from God and toward the gods of his many wives (1 Kings 11:13).

Solomon started well, really well in fact. He even appeared to be running strong in the middle of his life. But clearly, he failed to finish strong.

How to Finish Strong

If you watched only one episode of American Idol 2013, you heard Nicki Minaj say at least once, “I’m obsessed with…” Interestingly, the object of her obsession changed from one episode to the next and often within a single episode. What we can learn from Minaj is that we do need to be obsessed. But, unlike Minaj, we need to keep the focus of our obsession on God Almighty in order finish strong the race set before us.

Let’s look to what 1 Peter 5:8-9 tells us about running the race and finishing strong, about how we can stay obsessed with pursuing God.

  1. Realize it’s going to be a struggle, a fight. We will struggle with Satan, and we will struggle with ourselves.
  2. Be obsessed with finishing the race. Finish everything you do well, no matter how big or small. If you can’t finish the small things, do you think you’ll have the endurance to finish the big? (2 Timothy 4:6-8)
  3. Keep the faith. This doesn’t happen through works and one’s own ability. (Romans 10:17)

Get Obsessed!

With what are you obsessed? If it’s anything other than finishing strong, crossing the finish line, consider reevaluating your obsessions. Refuse to be like Minaj who spreads her obsessions around. Refuse to be like Templeton or Clifford who started well but failed to keep focused on God and therefore failed to finish strong.

Refuse to be like Solomon at the end of his life when he allowed his focus to be drawn away from God. Determine to keep your focus on God alone and to not let another have any control over that focus. Become obsessed with God alone!

DISCUSSION: How does your life reflect that of a person obsessed with finishing strong?

Check out the post Finishing at Cycleguy’s Spin for more inspiration to not quit and instead to finish strong… to achieve victory.

Be determined. Pursue simplicity. Find balance. Be curious. Be deliberate. Be intentional. Age gracefully. Make the most of every opportunity.


July 25, 2013 at 9:52 am

Have you ever seen the movie Billy, about the early years of BG? Good movie. Has Armie Hamer (Lone Ranger) playing Billy. It begins with Charles Templeton on his death bed reminiscing about he and Billy. Surprisingly a good movie. never heard of the other guy though. Interesting story Kari. Good application also. The church world is dotted with people who started well and fell by the wayside as a result of poor choices, or insufficient roots. Thanks also for the shout out.

    July 25, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    No, I haven't, but now that you mention it I remember it. Will have to check it out sometime for sure. Billy Graham certainly is an inspiration to finish the race strong!

Mark Allman
July 25, 2013 at 12:59 pm

I do think it is important to start well and continue to be consistent until you see that finish line then the commitment to finish strong should kick in. I guess the thing is we do not know when we will be at the finish line so perhaps we should be acting always as if we are near the finish line and doing the things that would make a finish strong. I would think our attitude should be to finish strong, regardless how we started and how we are doing. I don't think we give those people enough credit who started well and have been faithful all along like the son who was not the prodigal son.

    July 25, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    Definitely is important to start well and run the entire race well. Those just seem to hold less importance when one doesn't finish well or fails to finish at all. Faithfulness is so important to God; it's one of His main character attributes. I like the idea of always acting as if we are near the finish line, at least if we are running strong. In many race I've seen when runners were unsure of where the finish line was, they hesitated and stopped short instead of running strong until they were sure. Those who are faithful all along give us tremendous examples that we can find inspiration from, that's for sure. My pastor's wife is one of those people. She has said that her testimony is her lack of "testimony." Meaning, her lack of rebellion and strife in her life is her testimony, and it's something people often fail to see as an important testimony.

July 25, 2013 at 6:42 pm

What runs through my mind is the scene set up by Hebrews 12:1-2… the challenge is competing with our self as we run our race. Our eyes need to be on Jesus and our ears should listen to the encouragement of those who have already ran the race. It is not a race against others but against our "self" versus "Jesus" – it is a race to be won by endurance not looking to be first, but to finish strong! Great message and examples provided in your comments. Thanks Kari.

    July 25, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    A great point about it not being a race against others. I totally get that! I am a runner and not very fast, but I still run as if to get the prize that is for me. It's about running our best, about finishing strong based on what that means for each individual not as we compare to how others run. We all have different gifts just like different running abilities, so this makes so much sense. Thanks for making this point, Coach!

July 26, 2013 at 2:50 am

Physically, I couldn't run the length of the block I live on – COPD precludes my doing so – but spiritually and mentally and emotionally? I might be in the best shape of my life. It could be because I did all the self-destructive things earlier – lived the life of the prodigal – but when I go, I want it to be known that I was out of breath from laughing with God at the skid marks I left on the slide fro home 🙂

Good post, Kari!

    July 26, 2013 at 8:07 am

    He only asks that we do the best we can with right now, and it sounds like that’s exactly what you’re doing. Cool part about running are the running partners… don’t have to run alone.

July 26, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Thanks Kari for another great post! I liked the comment that talks about living like we were always at the finish line, ready to cross it. We never know when that will be, so yes, we do need to keep our focus on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Great reminder.

July 26, 2013 at 11:10 pm

Great facts about Chuck Templeton, Braun Clifford and Billy Graham. To leave a impactful and lasting legacy requires a daily choice on our part. To follow God and His calling for us. God rewards those who fight the good fight. Great post and thoughts, Kari!

July 27, 2013 at 11:51 am

My race has slowed down to a walk so am enjoying some of the benefits that comes with that slow down. I have been frustrated over this slow down before and when in that state I am not enjoying where God has me. Learning as I get closer to the end I do not have to focus on the finish, He has finished it for me. I just need to acknowledge Him as we walk and talk together. Good post Kari…

    July 28, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    Everyone runs at a different pace, and a person’s pace can vary from one season to the next. Knowing Jesus won the victory gives tremendous confidence to keep moving toward the goal & to finish strong.

August 19, 2013 at 5:00 pm

Man, this is pretty powerful.
Although I have to question using the memory of our society as a barometer of success. Sure, the two gentlemen names obviously fell hard. But what if they hadn't and were still obscure compared to Billy Graham? I think it's better to think in terms of treasure in heaven and godly reward rather than an earthly legacy (although a godly legacy on earth is still a great thing).
But this post does give us the perseverance to keep going – and the challenge to remember that every day counts.

    August 19, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    Good point about hesitating using our society as a barometer of success. I agree that our focus needs to be on heavenly treasure rather than earthly treasure, but we certainly cannot escape the Biblical principle of finishing strong though.

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