Finishing Well: Living Fully to the End
Anybody can start something. We all know the annual New Year’s rituals of making resolutions. But, alas, most of the time we give up after a few weeks and don’t complete our new found commitment.
But I am talking about something bigger than a goal that one has for a season. I am talking about a lifetime decision of following our Lord until death ushers us into eternity. I am talking about finishing well!
The Apostle Paul describes what finishing well looks like. He says in Philippians 3:13-14, “No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.” Later in his life he says, “As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me – the crown of righteousness that the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that great day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his glorious return.” (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
This is the passion and purpose all of us believers in Christ should be pursuing. We want to finish the race; the life that God has wanted for us and wants us to live.
The Bible is full of stories of people who began well, but didn’t finish well. For me the saddest example in all the Scriptures is Solomon. Here is a king of Israel, who God appears to and tells him that whatever he wants he can have. Essentially this is the lottery of prayers. God says he can have anything: riches, fame, you name it. Solomon asks for wisdom to be a good king. God is so pleased with Solomon’s decision, that He tells him he will grant his request and in addition also give him wealth and fame. Talk about hitting the spiritual jackpot!
Solomon goes through the early part of his life committed to his God, dispensing wisdom wherever needed and his kingdom is blessed beyond measure. He writes most of the Proverbs, a book to his son on how to live a life of wisdom. But Solomon has a weakness: WOMEN! He marries 700 women and has 300 concubines. Many of these women don’t serve Solomon’s God. Guess what? At the end of his life his heart is turned towards his wives’ gods and he forgets Yahweh.
Nehemiah is a book about the Jews returning to Israel from exile. Upon coming back to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls around the city, Nehemiah sees that the Jewish people have intermarried with women of foreign nations. He says in 13:26, “Wasn’t this exactly what led King Solomon of Israel into sin? ... There was no king from any nation who could compare to him, and God loved him and made him king over all Israel. But even he was led into sin by his foreign wives.” Translation: just because you begin well is no guarantee you will finish well.
So I humbly offer some wisdom to help all of us to stay on track in order to finish well. Daily we need to spend time in prayer and reading the Scriptures. In other words we spend quality time with our heavenly Father. There is no substitute for this, ever! Second, we need to be in a committed fellowship of believers and meet with them on a weekly basis. This is a non negotiable! Third we need to love others and look for ways to minister to people. This is our calling! Fourth, we need to give at least a tithe of our income and be generous with money. This is freedom!
There are obviously more ways to live this Christian life, but here is the bottom line. Do we get up every day and say to the Lord and to ourselves, “can I be more like Jesus today, than yesterday?” If we ask that question and do those suggested disciplines listed above, then I believe we can finish well.
As I am in my senior years and many times see movies or television shows that talk about death, I am more aware than ever of my mortality. This awareness sometimes causes me to reflect on regrets of things I wished I did better when I was younger. We all have regrets. If we didn’t we wouldn’t be human. But a better focus is what am I doing today to keep on track with my walk with the Lord and wanting to live fully for Him now? Finishing well!
I love the Olympics, especially the summer one. Over the years in the marathon race we get impressed with people who win the event. But I have seen examples of those who didn’t win, but didn’t give up. They even got on their knees and crawled to the finish line, because something in them said, don’t give up.
This is the attitude I crave; the holy perseverance that defines my existence. We may fall down, we may sin, but do we get up and say, “God I want to keep going, God I don’t want to quit; please God I want to finish well.”