Earlier today our students at Crown College completed their final exams and departed for Christmas break. There is something terribly exciting about the successful conclusion to another semester of college. (Teachers feel this way too!) Miraculously, everyone seems to have a good day on the last day of school.
It is one thing to finish and quite another to finish well. The Apostle Paul knew what it was to finish well when he wrote, “I have finished my course” (2 Timothy 4:7). In still another place he testified that his aim was to “finish my course with joy” (Acts 20:24). Not simply to endure. Not to manage to collapse across the finish line. To finish strong!
Through the years I have observed that more people disqualify themselves near the finish line than at any other time. Just before marriage. Days before graduation. Weeks before completing their work. There are many reasons for such casualties near the end…
1. Satan will allow a man to start but will do everything in his power to keep him from finishing.
Make your promises. Give a testimony. Have the best of intentions. Just don’t finish. The tempter will allow a man to begin like Peter as long as he can get him to finish like Demas. The battle is always fiercest just before the victory. Remember that the enemy is always working “to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” (John 10:10). There is no place to let down our guard against such a formidable adversary.
2. Flesh gives its best at the beginning.
So much of our efforts are done in the energy of the flesh. Flesh wants to impress, to prove itself. At some point that wears out. Flesh never finishes well. Your strength and mine can only carry us so far. We must die to self at every point along the race. Only then will we have the supernatural strength to finish.
3. It is easy to get your eyes on the finish line and off of the Lord.
A sense of accomplishment. Entitlement. “Relax! Coast in from here.” All distractions from the One who is “the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). It is easy to get careless near the end. Keep your eyes on Jesus.
Until we get to Heaven, no finish line is the final leg of the race. Ours is a marathon, not a sprint. As Pastor Sexton is fond of reminding our students, “The Christian life is a series of new beginnings.” Finish this leg of the race and you will begin another. How you finish will determine how you begin again.
I am young. At least that’s what I keep telling myself. Everything is relative with age. I am at least young enough to realize that I have started and I have crossed a few mile markers. But I am not at the finish line yet. The prayer of my life is that God would help me to press on and end strong.
The sidelines are filled with those who started the race but never finished. By God’s grace let’s determine to finish well.