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!
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.
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.
- Realize it’s going to be a struggle, a fight. We will struggle with Satan, and we will struggle with ourselves.
- 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)
- Keep the faith. This doesn’t happen through works and one’s own ability. (Romans 10:17)
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?