How Are We Going to Finish?

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During yesterday’s sermon I discussed the importance of finishing well. Even though I didn’t put it in my sermon, over the course of the week I kept thinking about some individuals with much in common throughout their lives, but who really couldn’t be more different regarding how their lives ended…

Saul and David were both anointed by the prophet Samuel to be kings over the twelve united tribes of Israel, and both experienced serious failures: Saul offered the sacrifice meant for Samuel and he didn’t destroy all the Amalekites (1 Sam 13 and 15), and David had his terrible sins with Bathsheba and Uriah (2 Sam 11). Despite these similarities though, the way they finished really couldn’t be more different. Saul died a shameful death on the field of battle, seeking suicide to prevent falling into the hands of the Philistines (1 Sam 31:4). Worst of all he was unable to pass the throne to one of his sons who ended up dying with him (1 Sam 31:2). David on the other hand died peacefully, fulfilling the desire every king has in passing the throne to his son (1 Kin 2:2-4).

Peter and Judas were both chosen by Jesus to be His disciples, enabling them to be part of the most unique experience in history as they accompanied the Lord during His earthly ministry. They also both failed in their lives and it wouldn’t be too much to say the failures themselves were fairly similar. The failures might have played out differently, but in essence they were the same: forsaking the Lord at the end of His life. Despite the similarities between their experiences and failures though, the way they finished couldn’t be more different. Peter went on to serve the Lord as a pillar in the early church with his life courageously and honorably ending in martyrdom (John 21:18). Judas on the other hand died one of the most tragic deaths in Scripture, committing suicide by hanging (Matt 27:5).

The question isn’t really whether we’re going to be like these men in terms of having our own failures. We’re all going to fail. It’s really a question of how we’re going to handle our failures; it’s a question of what we’re going to do after we fail. When we fail are we going to repent and pick ourselves up and continue serving the Lord – like David and Peter did – or do we let our failures consume us and ruin our lives, like Saul and Judas did?

We could say, “Are we going to be a David or a Peter? Or are we going to be a Saul or a Judas?” A simpler way to ask the question might be, “How are we going to finish?”

Finishing strong
Elwyn gave me this newspaper clipping back in 2003 when I was teaching elementary school. I laminated it and put it up in my classroom, sharing it with students at the beginning of each school. I’d tell them they’d all start off well in August and September, but what really mattered was how they finished in June.
The picture also encouraged me as a Christian to finish the race well (Heb 12:1, 2 Tim 4:7). In yesterday’s sermon I was able to share this poster toward the end pointing out how it it summarized my message. A subtler blessing for me was having Elwyn at church being able to see the picture he gave me years ago still blessing me and hopefully blessing others. When he first gave me the clipping I’m sure he never had any idea I’d be a pastor someday and use it in a sermon…and he’d be part of the church with his family!

2 Responses

  1. 1816 His family was forced out of their home. He had to work to support them.
    1818 His mother died.
    1831 Failed in business.
    1832 Ran for state legislature – lost.
    1832 Also lost his job – wanted to go to law school but couldn’t get in.
    1833 Borrowed money from a friend to begin a business and by the end of the year he was bankrupt. He spent the next 17 years of his life paying off this debt.
    1834 Ran for state legislature again – won.
    1835 Was engaged to be married, sweetheart died and his heart was broken.
    1836 Had a total nervous breakdown and was in bed for six months.
    1838 Sought to become speaker of the state legislature – defeated.
    1840 Sought to become elector – defeated.
    1843 Ran for Congress – lost.
    1846 Ran for Congress again – this time he won – went to Washington and did a good job.
    1848 Ran for re-election to Congress – lost.
    1849 Sought the job of land officer in his home state – rejected.
    1854 Ran for Senate of the United States – lost.
    1856 Sought the VP nomination at his party’s national convention – get less than 100 votes.
    1858 Ran for U.S. Senate again – again he lost.
    1860 Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States.

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