Finishing Well

startThere are 2,300 people mentioned in the Bible and 100 are prominent figures. Of those 100, only 1/3 finished well. Regarding the 2/3 that failed to finish well, most of them faltered in the last 1/2 of life.

When I look at many people older than me, I see the same trend with many struggling physically, mentally & spiritually. Many seem to have given up on aging gracefully and are just surviving, waiting for their last day to arrive. Many, unfortunately, have even given up on any kind of service to God, though they served Him fervently for much, if not all, of their younger years. “Let the younger ones do the work now,” they say. They are, at the moment, failing to finish well in the last 1/2 of life.

For much of my life, I dreaded growing older because I just didn’t see any older person who aged gracefully. All I saw were people getting more miserable with each passing day, and I knew I wanted no part of getting older if that’s what it was like.

Thankfully, my view of getting older changed in recent years as it is now being shaped by a few individuals who are aging gracefully. They serve God with increasing fervency. They possess joy, wisdom and peace that seems to come from a lifelong process of sanctification, an increasing intimacy with God that becomes immediately obvious in their presence. They still have struggles, but they never lose their focus on Christ. Their faith shines even in the toughest of times. And that, I want.

Likewise, there are that 1/3 of the 100 prominent who still serve as examples of how to finish well. I’m thankful for their example too. Combine the examples of people I know with those I read about, and I’m believing that I too can finish well.

How to Finish Well

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When I run in organized races, people I don’t even know cheer me on. Other runners cheer me on too. I also find myself encouraged by the others who finish the race and then go back down the course to cheer on other runners. And even though I know none of these people, I’m encouraged just to be told, “Keep going! Don’t quit. You’re almost there.”

The race of my faith life is also cheered on by people I don’t know, those who have gone before me and finished well. It’s encouraged by those running the race with, though a bit ahead, me too. My running is fueled by the words of Scripture acknowledging that the race is difficult but that finishing well is more than possible.

  1. Fight the good fight. Keep the faith. Cross the finish line. (2 Timothy 4:7)
  2. Complete the task Jesus gives you to do. (Acts 20:24)
  3. Discipline yourself & make sure what you teach matches how you live all the way to the finish line. (1 Corinthians 9:24)
  4. Endure to the end. (Hebrews 12:1)
  5. Stay qualified through the end. (Colossians 1:10-14 & 1 Corinthians 9:24)
  6. Let Christ complete His work in you. (Philippians 1:6)
  7. Stay confident. (Hebrews 10:35)
  8. Live forward, not backward. (Philippians 3:12-16)

To me, these Scriptures say, “Keep going. Don’t quit. You’re almost there.” They, along with the stories of the 1/3 who did finish well and those running just ahead of me today, encourage and cheer me on daily. They fuel my determination to finish well and to refuse to join the ranks of those who, in the last 1/2 of life wax and wane into average at best and flat out failure at worst.

DISCUSSION: What individual from the Bible do you think is the best example of finishing well and why? What motivates you to follow the advice listed above on how to finish your life well?

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 facebook.com/theitaliandude, on their web site, ninoandtammy.com 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.