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  • Rick LoPresti

Finishing well

“Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit (Ecc 7:8).” When events and projects are getting started, there is often much excitement and enthusiasm. However, the longer the time is between the start and the finish, the more likely people are to lose interest and faith. When difficulties and delays inevitably arise, those that are not committed will discontinue. Our spiritual journey with God is not a sprint. It is a marathon. Sprinters have a short burst of energy and output. Marathon runners have to pace themselves and endure a long race. They have to stay focused on the finish line or they will give up early. “I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift…(Ecc 9:11).” Most people have heard of the parable of the tortoise and the hare. The words of Jesus tell us that it is not he who starts but he who finishes who gets the reward (Mt 10:22, Lk 9:62, Lk 14:23-35). He also leads by example:

1. Jn 4:34, Jn 5:36 – I came to finish His work

2. Jn 17:4 – I have finished the work thou gavest me

3. Jn 19:30 – it is finished

4. Rom 9:28 – He will finish the work

5. Phil 1:6 – he that hath begun good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus

Christ

6. Heb 12:1-2 – lay aside weight and sin and run w. patience, looking unto Jesus author and

finisher of our faith, endured

7. Rev 1:8 – I am Alpha and Omega

Many people start well and but do not finish well. After the nation of Israel split into two, the kings of the northern tribes neither started nor finished well. Some of the kings of the southern tribes also neither started nor finished well. Some of them started well, but those that did all made mistakes in their later years:

1. David fell with Bathsheba (2Sam 11)

2. Solomon fell with many pagan wives and their idols (1Ki 11)

3. Rehoboam fell into idolatry (2Chr 12)

4. Asa pillaged the temple to hire the army of Syria against Israel, imprisoned the prophet

who reproved him, and failed to seek the Lord in his subsequent sickness

5. Jehoshaphat made allegiances with the wicked kings up north (2Chr 18-20)

6. Joash backslid after his mentor died and killed his mentor’s son (2Chr 24)

7. Amaziah worshipped the idols of Edom (2Chr 25)

8. Uzziah entered the temple to burn incense which was only for the priests to do and became

a leper until his death (2Chr 26)

9. Hezekiah showed all his treasures to Babylon and did not repent when warned by the

prophet (2Chr 32)

10. Josiah went to war against Egypt after being warned not to and died (2Chr 35)

It is interesting to note that the average age of a king of Judah when he died was only 46.

So, we can start well and finish bad; but we can also start bad and finish well. Manasseh was the son of Hezekiah which was one of Judah’s best kings (2Chr 33). He started out as the worst king of Judah. He was as bad as the pagan nations around him. His sins were so grievous that God said He would bring judgment on the nation that could not be turned back. Yet even Manasseh was able to turn to God in repentance and forestall the judgment. There was a man possessed by 6,000 demons in Gadara, but even he could not be stopped when he ran to the feet of Jesus, was delivered, and became a great witness of His (Mk 5:1-20). Paul started out as a persecutor and murderer of Christians, but he repented and became the evangelist and apostle of what is now Eastern Europe and wrote 14 of 27 books in the New Testament (Acts 7-9). Paul followed Christ’s example and was a finisher (Phil 3:13-14, 2Tim 4:6-7).

We may also start well, get off track, and get back on track. This is not the ideal, but it gives us hope that if we err, we can repent and finish well. Jonah fled the will of God, but he got a second chance when he repented (Jon 1-4). “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief (Prov 24:16).” The prophet Micah said, “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD shall be a light unto me (Mic 7:8).” John Mark left Paul during his missionary work (Acts 12-13). Later, his uncle Barnabas (Col 4:10) wanted him to join Paul on another mission, but Paul refused (Acts 15:36-41). At the end of Paul’s life, he wrote from Rome and asked for John Mark to come to him, because “he is profitable to me for the ministry (2Tim 4:11)”. President Richard Nixon said, “A man is not finished when he is defeated. He is finished when he quits.” The most important thing is that no matter what – adversity, failure, discouragement – we keep going. Abraham Lincoln is regarded as one of America’s best presidents if not the best. There are more books written about him than any man in history besides Jesus Christ Himself. His Gettysburg Address is regarded as one of history’s greatest speeches, and it is studied all over the world. Lincoln had his ups and downs like all of us. He was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but he learned to endure and he finished well:

1. His “failures”

a. 1832 - lost job, lost election for state legislature

b. 1833 – failed in business

c. 1835 – girlfriend died

d. 1836 – nervous breakdown

e. 1838 – lost election to speaker of Illinois House

f. 1843 – lost nomination for Congress

g. 1848 – lost renomination

h. 1849 – rejected for land officer

i. 1954 – lost election for U.S. Senate

j. 1856 – lost nomination for Vice President

k. 1858 – lost election to U.S. Senate

2. His successes

a. 1832 – elected company captain of Illinois militia in Black Hawk War

b. 1833 – appointed postmaster of New Salem and deputy surveyor of Sangamon County

c. 1834 – elected to state legislature

d. 1836 – re-elected to state legislature, got law license

e. 1837 – led Whig delegation to move capital to Springfield, became law partner

f. 1838 – nominated for house speaker, re-elected to Ill. house, Whig floor leader

g. 1839 - presidential elector, admitted to federal bar

h. 1840 – first case before Ill. Supreme Court, re-elected to Ill. legislature

i. 1841 – started new law partnership

j. 1842 – admitted to federal bar

k. 1844 – started own law firm

l. 1846 – elected to Congress

m. 1849 – admitted to U.S. Supreme Court bar

n. 1854 – elected to Ill. Legislature

o. 1860 & 1864 – elected U.S. President, abolished slavery, preserved union

We may not become famous or rich, but we can be a success in the eyes of God if we follow Him, endure to the end, and finish well.

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