“HOW TO FINISH STRONG” 2 Tim. 4:1-8
INTRO – Heard preacher who told this story: “When I was small, my mother was my piano teacher. Once in a recital, I went blank in the middle of the piece I was playing and had to walk off the stage in total humiliation. Later, my mother gave me some great advice. She said, ‘Honey, any time you mess up in the middle, always end with a flourish and no one will ever remember what you did in the middle.’ Now, some of you have ‘messed up’ in the middle of your life. But my friend, there is still time for you to end with a flourish.”
Today, “How to Finish Strong,” how to “end w/ a flourish.” Concluding the “Basic Training” series today. Covered a variety of important subjects necessary for each of us to live the Christian life:
- “How to Know You Are Saved”
- “How to Pray Effectively”
- “How to Lead Your Family”
- “How to Tell Someone About Jesus”
- “How to Be a Godly Citizen”
- “How to Function in the Body”
- “How to Live a Holy Life”
Today, we are bringing it to an end w/ as we consider what it takes to finish strong in the Christian life.
2006 St. Jude Marathon – Trained & trained. Was most challenging physical feat I’ve ever done. Started strong. About 18 miles in began to fade. Struggled for several miles. But determined to finish. Not moving much faster than a walk by the time I got to mile 24, 25, 26. But as I came into stadium, I heard my name announced before several thousand people who were in the stands. Helped me to finish strong!
One day, all of us are going to cross our finish line. The choice is up to us as to how we are going to finish – Heb. 12:1-2. In order for us to finish strong, there need to be some strong aspects of our lives right now.
Listen to some of these biblical characters crossing the finish line:
- Gen. 25:7-11 – Abraham
- Gen. 50:22-26 – Joseph
- Dt. 34:5-8 – Moses
- Joshua 24:29-30 – Joshua
- 2 Kings 2:11-12 – Elijah
- 1 Chron. 29:26-28 – David
- Mark 6:14-29 – J the B
- 2 Tim. 4:6-8 – Paul
All of these men finished strong for the Lord after living strong for the Lord. Understand that they weren’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination.
- Abraham lied twice about Sarah being his wife instead of trusting God.
- Moses disobeyed God & was not allowed to enter the Promised Land
- Elijah abandoned the people of Israel & ran in fear from Jezebel immediately after God used him to defeat the prophets of Baal
- David committed adultery w/ Bathsheba, got her pregnant, & had her husband, Uriah, killed to try & cover it up.
- Before he got saved, Paul persecuted the Church, was present when Stephen was stoned to death, & was on his way to throw some more Christians in prison when he got saved on the Road to Damascus. Then after he was saved, wrote in Rom. 7 – “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For what I do is not the good that I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing” (v. 18-19).
But the course of their life was strong for the Lord. The purpose of their life was to live strong for the Lord. The desire of their life was to be strong for the Lord. The service they gave was strong for the Lord. And in each of their lives, we see these characteristics of strength:
THEIR FAITH WAS STRONG – Simply put: They believed that God was who He said He was & that He would do what He said He would do. They counted on that.
- When J the B walked out of that wilderness, proclaiming, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for Him,” he counted on the fact that the Lord truly was coming. He truly believed that the OT prophecies about the coming Messiah were true. His faith was strong!
- When Abraham took his son Isaac up the mountain to sacrifice him, he believed that God would provide the lamb. “WE will worship & then WE will come back to you” (Gen. 22:5). “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” (v. 8).
- When Moses showed up in front of Pharaoh & said, “Let my people go!”, he counted on the fact that God was going to be w/ him & would do everything He said He would do when He called him from the burning bush. He counted on the fact that God would part the Red Sea when they got there & the Egyptians were right behind them. When they got to the edge of the Red Sea, God said, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on!” (Ex. 14:15). Imagine the faith it took to do that! But he believed God, trusted God, obeyed God, & saw God do the impossible! His faith was strong!
- When Paul was in that Roman prison cell awaiting his execution, he counted on the promises of God that there truly was “in store for [him] the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, would award to [him]…” One writer said, “This crown is not for those who depend upon their own sense of righteousness or of their own works” (http://www.gotquestions.org/heavenly-crowns.html). In other words, this crown is reserved for those whose faith is strong!
Polycarp (A.D. 70-155) was bishop of Smyrna and a godly man. He had known the apostle John personally. When he was urged by the Roman proconsul to renounce Christ, Polycarp said: “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury. How then can I speak evil of my King who saved me?” Burned at the stake.
THEIR FIGHT WAS STRONG – When your faith is strong & you are running to finish strong, you can expect that there will be opposition – STRONG opposition – SEVERE opposition – SPIRITUAL opposition – SATANIC opposition! We are seeing it in our day at a level none of us have ever experienced before. And the ONLY way we will be able to endure in the midst of the fight is by standing STRONG in the Lord & in HIS strength.
Just last night, an 8-ft bronze statue of Satan was unveiled in Detroit in the largest public satanic ceremony in history. The Satanic Temple made this statement about the statue: “…the unveiling event ‘will serve as a call-to-arms from which we’ll kick off our largest fight to date in the name of individual rights to free exercise against self-serving theocrats.’” (http://detroit.cbslocal.com/2015/07/25/group-to-unveil-satan-statue-in-detroit-during-largest-public-satanic-ceremony-in-history/)
What are we to do in the face of such blatant, intense opposition & spiritual warfare?
- We do what Joshua did. He fought strong b/c the Lord had told him: “As I was w/ Moses, so I will be w/ you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong & courageous (v. 6)…Be strong & very courageous (v. 7)…Have I not commanded you? Be strong & courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be w/ you wherever you go (v. 9).”
- We do what Elijah did on Mt. Carmel as he faced 450 satanic prophets of Baal. He fought strong b/c the Lord led him to stand & say to the people, “How long will you waver between 2 opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; if Baal is God, follow him.” Issued the challenge to the prophets. After their attempts, Elijah cried out to God: “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself” (1 Ki 18:36-37 NLT).
National Geographic article about Alaskan bull moose. The males battle for dominance during the fall breeding season, literally going head-to-head with antlers crunching together as they collide. Often the antlers, their only weapon are broken. That ensures defeat. The heftiest moose, with the largest and strongest antlers, triumphs. Therefore, the battle fought in the fall is really won during the summer, when the moose eat continually. The one that consumes the best diet for growing antlers and gaining weight will be the heavyweight in the fight. Those that eat inadequately sport weaker antlers and less bulk. There is a lesson here for us. Spiritual battles await. Satan will choose a season to attack. Will we be victorious, or will we fall? Much depends on what we do now–before the wars begin. The bull-moose principle: Enduring faith, strength, and wisdom for the battles are best developed before they’re needed. Which leads to last point…
THEIR FOCUS WAS STRONG – “FOCUS” is so important! MS recently passed a law against texting & driving. Why? B/c FOCUS is so important. There is tremendous danger in driving in an unfocused way. The consequences can be disastrous.
These men had a laser focus on God & on His plans for their lives. As w/ all of us, there were moments in their lives when they got out of focus, & there were consequences that accompanied those moments.
But the ongoing consistent, persistent focus of their lives was on the Lord, on His plans for their lives, on His mission for their lives & for His K’dom, on His glory, His honor, His renown, His name.
- David – “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Ps. 63:1)
- The focus of Abraham when he took Isaac up that mountain.
- Paul – “For none of us lives to himself alone & none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; if we die, we die to the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord” (Rom. 14:7-8).
FELLOWSHIP OF THE UNASHAMED: I am a part of the Fellowship of the Unashamed. I have the Holy Spirit Power. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, & my future is secure.
I am finished & done with low living, sight-walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions, worldly talking, cheap giving, & dwarfed goals.
I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean in His presence, walk by patience, am uplifted by prayer, & I labor with power.
My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is Heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my Guide is reliable, my mission is clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, deterred, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed.
I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I must go until He returns, give until I drop, preach until all know, and work until He comes.
And when He comes to get His own, He will have no problem recognizing me. My banner will be clear for, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes..”