IN THE DAYS OF HIS POWER SERIES.
TOPIC: FINISHING STRONG.
Rev. Innocent Peace-Udochukwu
President Living Fountain Ministries Int’l LIFOM
“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith”
Summary: We are called to finish the race, and it takes endurance. We need to be (1) prepared for the struggles that will come, and (2) focus our attention on Jesus. Ministry flows out of a love relationship with Christ. Our vision of Him will enable us to finish strong.
Weariness, exhaustion, discouragement, anxiety, and fear are ubiquitous in our culture right now. We live in different times then these believers, but in one sense we are just the same. We have hearts that can grow weary. The devil will use persecution or constant outrage and panic. His aim is the same in both – to wear us down and make us raise the white flag. To run with endurance means to keep going. Our race we are running calls not for a sudden burst of energy. But durability and stamina to finish well.
in a race, you need stamina in order to finish the race strong.Hebrews 12:1. Do you want to finish the race of faith strong? Of course you do. So how do we do that? That’s the point of this topic.
Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” (Isaiah 35:3-4)
What do we need for our stamina to be refueled? How is our spiritual battery recharged? We need to “behold our God!” We need to have the eyes of faith refocused on our great God and Savior Jesus Christ and his salvation. When you are exhausted and weary and fading, you look to Christ for nourishment.
The second critical time in a marathon is at the halfway point. You suddenly realize that you still have as far to go as you’ve already run and you’re already very tired. Runners call it “hitting the wall.” You’ve come to the end of your endurance and you’re not sure you can put one foot in front of the other anymore.
But finishing strong is what counts most. It is good to start strong but unless you finish strong it is of no value.
As we think of the endurance of the saints, of enduring to the end and finishing well, there is no better example in Scripture than that of the apostle Paul. As he sat chained in a Roman prison, anticipating an imminent execution, he wrote to Timothy:
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 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. (2 Timothy 4:6–8)
Paul was confident he had endured to the end and had finished well. Sadly, however, just a few sentences later he had to write of one of his coworkers: “Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica” (2 Timothy 4:10).
Here were two men who had ministered together — Paul and Demas — mentor and mentoree. One endured and finished the race and looked forward to the crown of righteousness. The other man peeled off, deserted his mentor, and was never heard from again. We don’t know what finally happened to Demas. We don’t know whether he ever repented or not, but the Scripture ends with the fact that “Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me.” In Philemon 24 Paul calls Demas a fellow worker along with Mark and Aristarchus and Luke. Demas was apparently a promising young man with a promising future; yet as far as we know he did not make it to the end.
The first essential is a daily time of focused personal communion with God. Many readers are familiar with the old classic Practicing the Presence of God, and that is an excellent habit to cultivate. But the foundation of that has to be a time of focused personal communion with God, and it needs to be daily. Demas didn’t just wake up one day and make a 90-degree turn. That doesn’t happen. Demas drifted little by little toward the attractions of the world. And if you and I do not practice this daily focused time of communion with God, we will find ourselves also drifting in the wrong direction.
David in one of his songs of Psalms sang:
“Earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you”.
Psalm 42: 1-2 says something similar: “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?”
Or again David in Psalm 27:4 said: “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” The beauty of the Lord is not a physical beauty. It’s the beauty of his attributes. It’s the beauty of the cross. It’s the beauty of what he has done for us in Christ. And the psalmist said, I just want to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord; I want to have communion with God. This is what the focused time is all about. All of these Scriptures speak of an intense desire to have that personal communion with God.
The second essential is a daily appropriation of the gospel. I have put personal communion with God first to highlight its priority because that’s the absolute basic essential. But in actual practice I put my daily appropriation of the gospel first. That is, I begin my time with God by reviewing and appropriating to myself the gospel. Since the gospel is only for sinners, I come to Christ as a still practicing sinner. In fact, I usually use the words of that tax collector in the temple when he cried out, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). God has been merciful, and I’m quick to acknowledge his mercy in my life, but I say to him that I come in the attitude of that tax collector. “I need your mercy. I am still a practicing sinner. Even my very best deeds are sinful in your sight, and I am an object of your mercy and your grace.”
It’s important that we come, first of all, by appropriating the gospel because it’s through Christ that we have access to God the Father. Paul says in Ephesians 2:18, “For through him we both [Jew and Gentile] have access in one Spirit to the Father.” We cannot come directly to God. We must always come through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. But God not only allows us to come; he invites us to come. The writer of Hebrews says, “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:19–22). And so as we appropriate the gospel it gives us the confidence to come into the very presence of God to have communion with him. So we need to learn to live by the gospel every day of our lives.
The third essential is a daily commitment to God as a living sacrifice. And for that I direct your attention to Romans 12:1: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” As we daily reflect on the gospel and what God has done for us in Christ, this should lead us to present ourselves as daily, living sacrifices.
The fourth essential is a firm belief in the sovereignty and love of God. This essential doesn’t have the word daily in it, but it must be practiced continually. Years ago M. Scott Peck wrote a book (The Road Less Traveled) that began with a three-word sentence: “Life is difficult.” Most people would agree with that. If you’ve lived very long you realize life is difficult, or at least it’s often difficult, and sometimes it’s even painful. And over time you will experience both difficulties and pain.
So if you want to endure to the end, if you want to stand firm in the face of life’s difficulties and pain, then you must have a firm belief in the sovereignty and the love of God. You must not only believe that God is in control of every event in his universe and specifically every event in your own life, but that God, in exercising that control, does so from his infinite love for you.
Our Father, again we come back to the realization that any of us could become a Demas, and it’s only by your grace that any of us stands firm. And so, Father, we acknowledge our total dependence upon you. We acknowledge our total indebtedness to you. And we give you thanks for your grace. But also, Father, we acknowledge our responsibility, and we pray that by your grace we will fulfill our responsibility, that we will practice these disciplines that will enable us to stand firm and to finish the race. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
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