This past Sunday, I preached about the necessity of us finishing strong. That’s easy to say…but sometimes hard to do. It’s easy to start strong, but very difficult to finish strong. Life happens, and life can be very hard.
Sometimes, we make terrible decisions that cost us dearly. Other times, we simply give up.
In racing, a driver who has to quit the race finishes with what they call a “DNF.” A “DID NOT FINISH.” I don’t want that said of me. I want to finish, and finish strong.
God desires for us to finish strong. But what does it take to do that?
1. To finish strong, it takes determination. The Apostle Paul compared the Christian life to being in a boxing fight. He said in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight.” He had fought the fight and had not been knocked out in the early rounds. He had fought all 15 rounds of the fight. But it takes determination. Paul also compared the Christian life to a race by stating, “I have finished the race.” You know what running a long distance takes…it takes determination, endurance and perseverance.
2. To finish strong, it takes concentration. Paul said, “I have kept the faith.” One Bible version says, “I have guarded the trust.” How do you keep guard? By keeping close watch, by keeping your eye on what you’re guarding. If we don’t keep our eyes on Christ, our faith can slip away from us. There are basically 3 ways to fall away from Christ:
Disobedience—we flat out disobey the will of God
Distractions—we are distracted by other things (such as ourselves, the world, etc.) that take our attention away from Christ
Drifting—we unintentionally drift away from Christ and the things of God
These are the result of not concentrating. Hebrews 12:2 states that we are to “look to Jesus.” Don’t take your eyes off of Christ!
3. To finish strong, it takes elimination. In order to finish the fight and the race, you must eliminate some things. That’s why you never see a boxer or a runner competing with excess clothes on! That’s why they’re never overweight…they’ve eliminated the excess weight! Are there some things in your life that you need to eliminate in order to finish strong? Is there anything in your life (a decision, a bad habit, a character flaw, a relationship, etc.) that is hindering you from being completely committed to Jesus? If so, it needs to be eliminated.
David Flood was a Swede who committed his life to Jesus as a youth. He married a young woman Svea who shared his commitment to Christ. They felt called to serve the Lord in Africa and arrived there in 1921. They wanted to share the gospel with those who had never heard it. But there in Africa their lives were hard, the conditions horrible, and the people hostile and unresponsive to the gospel. Their lives were constantly in danger. The Flood’s had two children in these conditions, and shortly after their second child was born Svea died.
David, already consumed by doubts and discouraged by a lack of results, was devastated. All he had to show for his efforts was just one convert…one young boy. He had sacrificed his wife and the best years of his life. For what? For one kid? He thought he had been a fool for bringing his wife to this cruel and hostile situation. He was eaten by guilt and despair, so he decided to leave Africa. He took his young son with him, yet had to leave his infant daughter behind since she was too ill to travel.
A missionary couple took her in, and when they died, the little girl was given to another missionary couple, who later raised her in America. In the meantime, David was living in Sweden and had turned his back on the faith. After his second marriage dissolved, he began living with a mistress. He thought little of the daughter whom he had not seen since her infancy.
His daughter, Aggie, however, thought about her father often. She learned about the work her father and mother had begun in Africa and she desperately wanted to talk to him about it. Years later, she arranged for a trip to Sweden. She found her 73-year-old, bedridden father living in a shabby apartment littered with liquor bottles. She went to her father and told him she still loved him…and that God did too.
And then she told him about that one convert. That little boy had grown up to be a gifted leader and minister of the gospel. That one little boy eventually led thousands to Christ and helped to establish a Christian church in that section of Africa.
Upon hearing what God had done, David threw himself upon the mercy of God. He asked God to forgive his rebellion and wasted years. And God did. David didn’t know that he had just six months to live. But those six months were months of productivity and restoring broken relationships. After nearly forty years of falling on his face, David Flood got up and finished the race. And, believe it or not, he finished strong.
Remember this…it’s not how you start the race that counts; it’s how you finish.