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Finishing Strong

Pastor Dennis Smith

Solomon wrote, “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof.” In context, it seems he was speaking of the virtue of a humble patience over premature boasting in a matter. And I think we can apply his words generally to the life of faith and our Christian walk. My claim would be this: How you finish is even more important than how you start.

The Apostle Paul might be the quintessential example of this. Having started out as a chief persecutor of the saints, he experienced a life-changing conversion and became the most prominent evangelist/missionary in the early church. Nearing the end of his life he was able to say, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course; I have kept the faith.” His claim was that in his service to Christ he had battled through adversity and hardship; he had accomplished all that God had assigned him. And it could all be summed up by his having held onto and lived out the faith that is so central to the new life in Christ.

Now, there was only one Apostle Paul. God had chosen and appointed him to a unique role in the spreading of the Gospel in the first century. And though neither you nor I will have the impact on history that Paul had, we can still aspire to be able to say at the end that we have fought a good fight, finished our course, and kept the faith. Paul went on to say what the outcome of his faithful service to the Lord would be. He said that a reward awaited him — a crown of righteousness that the Lord would bestow one day. In the book of Revelation, the risen Lord himself assured believers that faithful perseverance will be rewarded.

If you have made a good start in the Christian life, that’s something to thank the Lord for. But know that how you finish is just as important, if not more so, than how you start. Most of us are aware of tragic stories of moral failure on the part of some who were people of reputation in their local church. How they finished undid how they started.

Some years ago at seminary, I spoke with a missionary whose life experience was in some ways similar to mine. He had served in the military during wartime and then had gone on to get an education and build a professional career. But later in life, he answered the Lord’s call to ministry. He chose to abandon his career and devote his life to serving the Lord as a missionary. His comment to me was, “I want to finish strong.” Indeed. It struck me that those were words to live by.

I don’t think it’s ever too late to shift our focus to living more for God and less for self. What that looks like doesn’t have to be the same for all of us. The Lord may not be calling you to quit your job and become a missionary or a pastor or evangelist. But maybe he is calling you to serve your church, or your community, or perhaps your family in ways that mean you will have to set aside some personal ambitions and make time for consciously ministering for the benefit of others. It may take you out of your comfort zone. You may doubt that you are adequate for whatever the task. But I can assure you that what the Lord calls you to, he equips you for.

How has the Lord equipped you to serve others? It’s never too late.

After all, “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof.”

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