Will you finish well or will pride and self-sufficiency show up when least expected? Find out what makes the difference.
2 Chronicles 32 & 33
10 Secrets to Finishing Well
2 Chronicles 32 & 33:
He Started Out Well, but …
Wow! What a great start Hezekiah had. In yesterday’s reading he put an end to idol worship, restored the priesthood, cleansed the temple, restored temple worship, and re-instituted the solemn feasts.
Now, in today’s reading, he is faced with an enemy from outside. When he realizes the Assyrian King Sennacherib was plotting to overtake Judah he sprung into action, working with his leaders and encouraging the people by reminding them of God’s faithfulness. Chapter 32.7-8:
7 “Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid nor dismayed before the king of Assyria, nor before all the multitude that is with him; for there are more with us than with him. 8 With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people were strengthened by the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.
And when the danger grew worse:
20 Now because of this King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah, the son of Amoz, prayed and cried out to heaven. 21 Then the LORD sent an angel who cut down every mighty man of valor, leader, and captain in the camp of the king of Assyria. So he returned shamefaced to his own land. And when he had gone into the temple of his god, some of his own offspring struck him down with the sword there.
22 Thus the LORD saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib the king of Assyria, and from the hand of all others, and guided them on every side.
25 But Hezekiah did not repay according to the favor shown him, for his heart was lifted up; therefore wrath was looming over him and over Judah and Jerusalem.
After years of seeing God’s faithfulness, Hezekiah began to think it was about him, his wisdom, his great abilities, and his heart was lifted up in pride.
But even after all that, when Hezekiah repented, God was merciful:
26 Then Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the LORD did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah.
Paul, however, finished well in spite of his great accomplishments and in spite of great opposition. Let’s take a look at the difference from our New Testament reading.
Here in chapter 20 Paul is saying goodbye to his beloved friends in Ephesus. He reminds them of the truths he has taught them, warns them to watch out for false teachers, recounts his example of ministry to them, and tells them he will face danger and hardship in the future.
Verse 24, “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”
After all he had been through and knowing that he was going to suffer for the cause of Christ, Paul expressed his desire to finish well! What a contrast to so many of the Old Testament kings.
How did Paul help ensure that he finished well?
“… none of these things move me.” In other words, I’m not going to allow what I have accomplished to fill me with pride.
Finishing well requires having the right view of yourself and your life. Paul saw his life, and even his death, as an offering to God (Rom. 12.1).
If we have a puffed up view of ourselves and our own importance, we won’t finish well.
“… nor do I count my life dear to myself …” Paul was saying, I’m nothing special. He wasn’t asking, “Why me? Why is this happening to me when I have served God so well?”
“… that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” Paul understood that the eternal reward of hearing his Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” was far more important than the praise of men or basking in the glow of his success.
He knew finishing well meant having an eternal perspective. Paul didn’t see his death as the end but as a “departure.”
Passing the Torch
There was another thing Paul did to ensure he finished well. In his last letter to his son-in-the-faith, Timothy, he said:
2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 5 But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. (2 Tim. 4. 2-8).
Paul was passing the torch to his young protégé. He could be at peace knowing he had finished well because he had discipled others, especially Timothy.
One of our former pastors used to say, “You are not fulfilling your ministry if you are not training your replacement.” We are all called to “train our replacements,” those who will take the gospel to the next generation of believers (Matt. 28.19-20; 2 Tim. 2.2).
As parents and grandparents we need to ask ourselves if we are faithfully discipling our children and grandchildren: reading the Bible with them, teaching them to memorize Scripture and memorizing it with them, faithfully being a part of a New Testament church where we grow and serve others.
It doesn’t mean using the Bible like a club or treating Christianity as something you do, but rather as something your are. It means living it out in front of them not just when it’s convenient, but when it’s hard.
It also means living out Titus 2.2-5: the older women teaching the younger women and mature men of God teaching and mentoring those who are young in the faith. It means being purposeful and putting out the effort even with our jammed schedules and crazy lives.
Paul was imprisoned, had been deserted and betrayed by others, and was faced with execution, but he had peace because he could say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4.7).
He finished well.
- Not allow pride to get a foothold. Remember all our gifts, every talent, and every opportunity to serve and grow, come from Him (Jas. 1.17).
- Remember that our lives belong to Him (Acts 17.28; Rom. 12.1).
- Not get caught up in the “why me” syndrome. It leads to doubt and discontent. The real question is “why not me?” (Lk. 9.23-24; Gal. 2.20; Heb. 12.7).
- Stay teachable (Prov. 9.8).
- Stay connected to Him through a regular intake of His Word (Ps. 119.11) and prayer (1 Thess. 5.17).
- Cultivate friends who will challenge us and lovingly confront us when necessary (Prov. 27.6).
- Accept God’s dealings with us (Heb. 5.12-11). Rejecting them can lead to discouragement and, even, bitterness (Heb. 12.15).
- Focus on loving God and loving others (Matt. 22.36-39; Phil. 2.3-4).
- Disciple others (Matt. 28.19-20; 2 Tim. 2.2).
- Keep an eternal perspective (Matt. 25.21; Col. 3.2).
Let’s pray that we don’t just serve Him now, but that we remain faithful to the end.
Lord, help me to finish well. Search my heart and show me where I am prideful and self-absorbed. Help me to recognize any tendency to rely on myself instead of trusting in You. Help me to have the strength and energy to disciple those You have placed in my life. And help me to have an eternal perspective so I can finish well. In Jesus name I pray … amen.
As we pray and seek to be faithful, we should remember that it’s not in our own strength that we can be faithful, but by relying on God, humbly calling on Him, and remembering how much we need His help. And if we belong to Him, we can stand on His promise in Philippians 1.6:
6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.
Today’s Other Readings:
Our Salvation and His Glory
8 I will hear what God the LORD will speak,
For He will speak peace
To His people and to His saints;
But let them not turn back to folly.
9 Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him,
That glory may dwell in our land.
This passage refers to the future millennial reign of Christ, but also applies to us as individuals. When we fear God and seek His righteousness, He speaks peace into our lives.
The Reward of the Wicked
“The righteous God wisely considers the house of the wicked, overthrowing the wicked for their wickedness.”
Matthew Henry says this verse illustrates the importance of not envying the wicked, but instead, considering their end.
Speaking of finishing well, tomorrow’s post has to do with the ultimate finish at least here on earth, the Rapture. Sign up so you don’t miss tomorrow’s post: “Could You Be Left Behind?”
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