"SOLOMON, FINISHING STRONG -
A GOOD START ISN’T ENOUGH"
TEXT: 1 KINGS 1-11
Have you ever noticed in life that a good start isn’t always enough. Now there is nothing wrong with a good start mind you, but it is often not enough to get us to the finish line, or to the winners circle.
And if you don’t believe me, ask the Atlanta Braves who won the first 2 games of the 1996 years world series against the Yankees in New York. I think the scores were 12-1 and 6-0. They were pretty excited about their start. But winning those 2 games gave little comfort as they watched their opponens hold that trophy 4 games later.
Or you can ask the 1969 Baltimore Orioles. Who dominated the majors that year. Won 109 games -- more than any other team. And their opponents in the World Series were the New York Mets. Everyone expected the Orioles to win easily, and then when they won the first game -- it seemed as though they had it in the bag... But in just 4 more games it would be all over, and the New York Mets would be the ones wearing that World Series ring. In 1969 the Orioles and all of Baltimore were convinced of the truth that a good start isn’t enough.
Or take the Buffalo Bills who in their 4th Super bowl led the Dallas Cowboys going into to halftime...(watched game at church...I was abnoxious - if you can belive that) But as good as that first half was , the Bills will be the first to tell you that at the end of the contest - when the Dallas Cowboys were the one holding the trophy - that a good start is not enough... The week following the game the city of Buffalo did not throw a parade to celebrate the half time lead...
And I think we all have experienced the reality of this truth in our own everyday lives.
Perhaps, we start out real good on a new diet or exercise program....
Or on a project around the house, a class in school, a job in church or in paying off some bills.... I mean we are out of that starting gate like hungry grey hounds chasing a rabbit.....
But time passes and the diet ends, the exercise stops, we fail the class, the job doesn’t get done and the bills are still where we left them. You see, though there is nothing wrong with a good start -- it just isn’t enough.
Today, as we continue in our series - real people - true stories - we wnat to take a look at King Solomon. Solomon was a guy who learned this lesson (that a good start doesn’t isn’t enough) the hard way.
SOLOMON HAD A GOOD START
What I want to do first is to tell you about this good start. I mean Ol’ Solomon really had it going. FOR ONE THING:
HE HAD A GOOD FATHER
Now, Fathers are important in the raising of children... And Not only is it important to have a father -- but it is also important to have a father who is a good man. To be fortunate enough to be born into a home where the father is present and where the father is also a good man... is to begin life with a good start...
Solomon was born into the home of King David... Now David was not a perfect man -- he made mistakes (but no one who has ever walked this earth has been perfect except Christ).
Now, you and I can look at incidents in David’s life and judge Him -- but really, in the final analyses it is only God’s opinion that counts...And God said this of David,
"HE IS A MAN AFTER MY OWN HEART"
I don’t imagine higher words could be given to anyone
SOLOMON HAD A GOOD FATHER.
HE ALSO RECEIVED GOOD ADVICE
After conquering lions, Goliath, The evil King Saul -- The Philistines and other enemies (foreign and domestic) David was facing an enemy he could not defeat -- he was facing death.
And as the book of Kings opens up David is old and well advanced in years, his helath is slipping away fast... And David calls Solomon to him AND We read the following in [I Kings 2:1-3]
"When the time drew near for David to die, he gave a charge to Solomon his son, ‘I am about to go the way of all the earth,’ he said. ‘So be strong, show yourself a man, observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in His ways, and keep His decrees & commands, His law & requirements, as written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go...."
That’s good advice, advice that you and I would do well to heed........
BE STRONG AND SHOW YOURSELF TO BE A MAN (WE CERTAINLY NEED THAT ADVICE TODAY -- AND FOR MEN TO HEED IT)
AND TO WALK IN THE WAYS OF THE LORD.... TO FOLLOW GOD, TO LIVE BY HIS WORD... IS A SURE PATH TO SUCCESS..."So that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go..." 2 Kings 2:3
SOLOMON RECEIVED GOOD ADVICE:
HE ALSO MADE A GOOD REQUEST
After Solomon become King he went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices to God -- the text says that he offered a thousand burnt offerings on the altar.
And that night the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream and said, "What do you want? Ask and I will give it to you..."
If you were Solomon what would you have asked for?
Now, Solomon not only being a new King, BUT following in the footsteps of David...KNEW had big shoes to fill... He w/o a doubt was feeling overwhelmed by the task and the amount of people who would be looking to him for all things...So Solomon made this request of God,
"O Lord my God, now you have made king instead of my father David, but I am like a child who doesn’t know his way around. And here I am among your own chosen people, a nation so great they are too numerous to count! Give me an understanding mind so that I can govern your people well and know the difference bewteen right & wrong. For who by himslef is able to govern this nation of yours..."
And the Bible says in [I KINGS 3:10-13]
"Since you asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have you asked for the death of your enemies, BUT for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never be anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for - both riches and honor - so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings...."
HE PERFORMED A GOOD PROJECT
In the four hundred and eighth year after the Israelites had come out of Egypt -- During Solomon’s fourth year as King the construction of the temple of the Lord began.... And what a project it was...
The Temple was 90 feet long, 30 feet wide and 45 feet high.....And Tens of thousands of people were involved in this seven year project:
The most important part of the temple was the Holy of Holies whose inside dimensions were 30 feet high -- 30 feet wide -- and 30 feet long, "a perfect cube." The walls and everything in this room were over laid with pure gold.... In fact 23 tons of pure gold was used in this room alone. The nails in this room were made of pure gold weighing 1 1/4 pounds. There were 2 carved cherubim in this room also over laid with gold they had wings spans of 15 feet and their wings were wide open touching the walls and each other....
This was the room that the ark of God would be placed, where God’s present dwelt in a cloud... And only the high priest could come into this room and he only once a year after first offering a sin sacrifice for himself...... It was in this temple that the presence of the Almighty God would dwell.
SOLOMON PERFORMED A GOOD PROJECT
AND HE HAD A GOOD PRAYER LIFE
When the building of the temple was complete Solomon had the priests bring the ark into the Holy Place... And when the priest withdrew from the holy Place, the glory of the Lord filled the temple in a great cloud.
Then Solomon gather the whole assembly of Israel in front of the Temple. AND HE PRAYED A PRAYER OF DEDICATION... IT IS AN AWESOME PRAYER.... I WISH WE HAD TIME TO READ THE WHOLE THING BUT WE DON’T.... (Chapter 8)
Then Solomon stood with his hands lifted toward heaven before the altar of the Lord in front of the entire community of Israel. He prayed, "O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in all of heaven or earth. You keep your promises, and show unfailing love to all who obey you and are eager to do your will. You have kept your promise to your servant David, my father. You made that promise with your own mouth, and today you have fulfilled it with your own hands." (22-24)
"But will God really live on earth? Why, even the highest heavens cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built. Listen to my prayer and my request, O Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is making to you today. May you watch over this Temple both day & night...may you always hear the prayers I make toward this place. May you hear the humble & earnest requests from me and your people Israel when we pray toward this place. Yes, hear us from heaven where you live, and when you hear, forgive." (27-30)
When Solomon finished making these prayers & requests to the Lord, he stood up in front of the altar of the Lord, where he had been kneeling with his hands raised toward heaven. He stood there and shouted this blessing over the entire community of Israel. "Praise the Lord who has given rest to his people Israel, just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the wonderful promises he gave through his servant Moses. May the Lord our God be with us as he was with our ancestors; may he never forsake us. May he give us the desire to do his will in everything and to obey all the commands, laws, and regulations that he gave our ancestors....May the people over the earth know that the Lord is God and that there is no other. And may you his people, always be faithful to the Lord our God. May you always obey his laws and commands, just as you are doing today." (54-61)
SOLOMON HAD A GOOD PRAYER LIFE..
FINALLY HE WROTE MANY GOOD BOOKS
Solomon is the author of 3 Books; Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon.
I THINK YOU WILL AGREE WITH ME THAT SOLOMON HAD A GOOD START, YOU COULD SAY A GREAT START....HE LOOKED LIKE A SURE WINNER...
AND IT IS THIS GREAT START THAT MAKES IT SO HARD TO UNDERSTAND HIS LOUSY FINISH...FOR YOU SEE, SOLOMON DID NOT FINSIH STRONG.
SOLOMON’S LOUSY FINISH
In I Kings chapter 11 we read about Solomon’s lousy finish;
The Lord was very angry with Solomon, for his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. He had warned Solomon specifically about worshiping other gods, but Solomon did not listen to the Lord’s command. So now the Lord said to him, "Since you have not kept my covenant and have disobeyed my laws, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your servants..." (9-11)
And scripture goes on to say; that if it wasn’t for David, and his loyalty to God, God would have ripped the Kingdom out of Solomon’s hands during his own lifetime... But for the sake of David God would not do it in Solomon’s lifetime but rather in Solomon’s son’s lifetime..
Talking about hitting bottom, Solomon went from being God’s man to having God tear the Kingdom from his hands.
And the only reason God didn’t do it to Solomon directly was because of David... not because of the good Solomon had done in the past, you see that didn’t matter (Solomon couldn’t say, "but God I did this and I did this, I wrote 3 books of the Bible -- doesn’t that count") -- those things didn’t really matter now, because a good start isn’t enough in the eyes of God... And Solomon was going down, and he was going down hard, because he had a lousy finish.
Every one cheers the runners at the start of the race... but the real race is fought and won on the back roads where not many see and few cheer... and that is where many choose to quit and they never make it to hear the cheers at the finish line...
WHY DID DISASTER STRIKE THE HOUSE OF SOLOMON?
Do you remember Solomon’s great prayer of dedication for the temple of God? We read about in I Kings chapter 8, well, in chapter 9 we find of God’s response to that.
"I have heard your prayer & your requests. I have set apart this temple you have built so that my name will be honored there forever. I will always watch over it and care for it. As for you, IF you will follow me with integrity & godliness, as David your father did, always obeying my commands and keeping my laws & regulations, then I will establish the throne of your dynasty over Israel forever....But if you or your descendnets abandon me and disobey my commands and laws, and if you go and worship other gods, THEN I will uproot the people of Israel from this land I have given them. I will reject this temple that I have set apart to honor my name. I will make Isreal an object of mockery and ridicule among the nations... And though this Temple is impressive now, it will become an appalling sight for all who pass by. They will scoff and ask, ‘Why did the Lord do such terrible things to his land and to his Temple? And the answer will be, "BECAUSE his people forgot the LORD their God, who brought their ancestors out of Egypt, and they worshiped other gods instead...." 1 Kings 9:3-6
Why did disaster strike in the life of Solomon and in the life of the Jewish nation? Because they stopped walking in the ways of the Lord.
Okay, what did Solomon do that was so bad?
Solomon married many foreign women - hundreds - and most of them were not followers of God, they worshiped idols... And these wives led Solomon away from God - he began to worship these false gods. He built altars and shrines to this gods. NOW, most of these gods were gods that glorified sexual immorality - and some of this worship even involved child sacrifice...
Solomon had a great start HE-- had a good father, received good advice, made a good request, performed a good project, had a good prayer life and he wrote 3 good books.....
But in the end we find the Lord becoming angry with Solomon and tearing the Kingdom from Him, Why? BECAUSE he no longer walked in the ways of the Lord....
Listen, there is a lesson in this for us; an important lesson, a vital lesson, a valuable lesson, a lesson that involves the character of our relationship with God. -- And let’s not forget what God says one of the purposes of the OT is, "THESE THINGS HAPPENED TO THEM AS EXAMPLES AND WERE WRITTEN DOWN AS WARNINGS FOR US, ON WHOM THE FULFILLMENT OF THE AGES HAS COME." (I CORINTHIANS 10:11).
And those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.... Nations and individuals who refuse to learn from the example of Solomon and Israel are doomed to meet the same tragic end.... A LOUSY FINISH NO MATTER HOW GOOD THEY STARTED OUT.
I WANT TO APPLY THIS LESSON IN 2 WAYS...
FIRST I WANT TO APPLY TO OUR COUNTRY....
When the founders of our country came to this nation, when those 55 men gathered in Philadelphia at the constitutional convention, to frame this country. -- over 50 OF THEM were Christians...
And Despite what the history revisionists claim this nation began as a Christian nation. Patrick Henry declared, "it can not be stated too strongly that this great nation was founded not by religionists but by Christians, not on religions but on the gospel of Jesus Christ...."
Our country had a great beginning.... On our currency is the words "IN GOD WE TRUST..." On the one dollar bill we find our nations seal. With the Words "E PLURIBUS UNUM" Which means from the many one. You see it was the belief of this nation’s founders that a Christian nation though made up of many diverse people from diverse backgrounds could maintain this diversity and still be one, could still have unity -- because that unity is founded in Jesus Christ.
On the other side of the back of the dollar bill we see and unfinished pyramid, with a watchful eye over top. This eye represents the eye of God looking out at this great nation ... depicted by the unfinished pyramid, and God is saying "you have had a good beginning America... But it is not over yet and I’ll be watching.....
Why has disaster struck or nation: why is our debt getting bigger, why is crime getting out of control, why is morality at rock bottom, why are kids shooting thier class mates, why are natural disasters pummeling our nation, why is aids and STD’s claiming the lives of millions, Why are millions young lives been ripped a part in the womb, WHY ARE SINFUL LIFESTYLES GAINING INCREASING ACCEPTANCE, why are so many hooked on drugs and alcohol AND why are so many people violent- directionaless, valueless and hopeless?
WHY I ASK HAS DISASTER STRUCK OUR NATION?
Because our nation has left the God it once trusted in... Though the words remain on our currency the meaning has long be lost...
Our God and His Son are mocked in the media, they have been expelled from the centers of learning, they have been Thrown out of the court room -- and ignored and ridiculed by our leaders... To them God is not relevant anymore... Our leaders have been dubbed into believing that America made it to the top on our own... we did not. And the great leaders of the past like Washington and Lincoln recognized this and they unashamedly admitted their dependence on God.
America as the great french philosopher of the 1800’s Torquville said when sent to find the secret of America’s greatness , "AMERICA IS GREAT BECAUSE AMERICA IS GOOD IF AMERICA EVER CEASES TO BE GOOD, SHE WILL CEASE TO BE GREAT."
We need to pray for our country daily, vote in men AND WOMEN who are godly.... America need Christians to rise up, because in the eyes of God a good start isn’t enough!!!!!!!!!!! Ask Solomon, ask the nation of Israel.
NOW I WANT TO APPLY THIS LESSON TO OURSELVES
YOU KNOW, IT IS SO EASY TO SIT BACK AND JUDGE OUR NATION, TO POINT OUR FINGERS AND SHAKE OUR HEADS AND SAY TO OURSELVES, "MAN, I JUST DON’T SEE WHY THEY DON’T GET IT, HOW COME THEY CAN’T SEE WHAT IS SO OBVIOUS?
But while we do that fellow Christians, perhaps God’s watchful eye is looking out over the unfinished pyramid of Christian lives and wondering why we don’t get it either.
There are many Christian who at one time accepted Christ, were immersed into His name, had there sins washed away, who laid A GOOD foundation.... they had a good start -- rescue, salvation, forgiveness, justification and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
But now they like the Israelites cry out and wonder, "WHY HAS DISASTER STRUCK MY LIFE!" Listen, A good start isn’t enough in the eyes of God...A good start and past victories, doesn’t make up for a lousy finish.....If Solomon could not coast in on the waves of his good start -- we dare not think that we can either.
When we cry out why has disaster struck my life?
Why am I unhappy and miserable most of the time, why is my marriage a wreck, my family a wreck, why are my finances a wreck, why am I sick tired and worn.... why is it getting harder to get out of the bed and face life each morning.....
Do you remember the advice David gave Solomon on the death bed... "observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in His ways, and keep His decrees & commands, His law & requirements, as written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go...."
WHEN DISASTER SEEMS TO STRIKE NEARLY EVERY FACET OF OUR LIFE; RELATIONALLY, EMOTIONALLY, FINANCIALLY, SPIRITUALLY, PHYSICALLY....THE FIRST THING WE NEED TO ASK OURSELVES, THE FIRST THING WE NEED TO ANALYZE IS HOW IS MY WALK WITH GOD ...RIGHT NOW!!!
Listen, a good start is fine - There is nothing wrong with getting out of the blocks fast. BUT trophies are given only to those who cross the finish line. There are no gold meals for 95 yard dashes. The bible is full of stories of men & women who had great starts for God - but who did not finish strong...
We find ten of them in Numbers 13. You know the story: God is ready to hand over the keys to the promised land to the newly liberated nation of Israel. Under the leadership of Moses , God had brought them out of Egypt after 400 years of slavery. 2 million plus people left Egypt with the gold & riches of Egypt...AND now the are ready to enter the rich & prosperous land that will be their new home.
God specifically instructs Moses to pick out 12 men one from each tribe. We who know the story and sang the song know that 10 were bad and 2 were good. Now, tend to think the ten were bums, BUT they were not, at least not yet.
God told Moses to pick out 12 ‘leaders’ and as Moses looked out over all the men in the 12 tribes, 600,000+ men, these 12 guys rose to the top.... These guys were Iraels’s best & brightest. They weren’t rookies, they were salty veterans. These were men with a proven track record and a vision for the future... To be in the top 12 of a class of 600,000 -- is no small thing. Moses wasn’t going to pick wannabees or has-beens to go check out the land... For a mission like that you don’t put in your 3rd string - you put the ball in the hands of the Michael Jordans. The ‘go to’ guys.
These were 10 guys who had seen God send plagues to Egypt...10 guys who saw God open the Red Sea for them and their families, 10 guys who had seen guy work time & time again on their behalf.... But they were 10 guys who freaked out because the land contained some powerful enemies & strong fortified cities. These leaders had a great start. They just couldn’t finish...
It’s endurance that determines whether or not we will finish strong. And endurance is the fruit of godly character. Listen, the Christian life is not a 100 yard dash.. It’s a marathon. It’s a long race, and long races don’t require speed. They require grit, guts, determination and finishing power.
Let me tell you something the fact that good men, Godly men, faithful men --- men like Solomon, the 10 spies, Saul, Eli, Gideon - the fact that men, who were on fire - men who flew out of the starting blocks, men who had a commanding half time lead -- finished poorly...scares me.
AND I am not the first person to be concerned about this... When Paul came to Christ - he blew out of the blocks faster then anyone ever has... BUT Paul knew that there was more to a race then the start... Listen to his own words....
In a race, everyone runs but only one gets first prize. So run your race to win. To win the contest you must deny yourselves many things that would keep you from doing your best. An athlete goes to all this trouble just to win a blue ribbon or a silver cup, BUT we do it for a hevanely reward that never disappears. So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step. I fight to win. I’m not just shadow boxing or playing around. Like an athlete I punish my body, treating it roughly, training it to do what it should, NOT what it wants to. OTHERWISE I fear that after enlisting others for the race, I myself might be declared unfit & ordered to stand aside... 1 Cor 9:24-27
I do not mean that I am already as God wants me to be. I have not yet reached that goal, but I continue trying to reach it and to make it mine. Christ wants me to do that, which is the reason He made me His. Brothers and sisters, I know I have not yet reached that goal, but there is one thing I always do. Forgetting the past and straining toward what is ahead, I keep trying to reach the goal, and get the prize for which God called me through Christ to the life above."
SO how do we make sure that we finish strong - how can you & I ensure that we cross the finish line with power?
We need to do 4 things.......
Stay In -
We need to stay in the word... Question, Are you in the word....? Are you on a regular basis in the word of God? If you are not the chances of you finishing strong are not good... I wouldn’t put any $$$$ on you.
"All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do." 2 Tim 3:16,17
The bible tells us: what’s right & what’s not right
How to get right & how to stay right
Stay close to a friend you can’t con. Stay close to a friend who loves you enough to tell you when you’re screwing up. Stay close to a friend who will hold you accountable.
Listen one of the primary ways that the enemy keeps us from finishing strong is isolation. Instead of being close to anyone, you become distant. Instead of being gut-level honest, you begin to shade the truth. Instead of following Christ you begin to act like you are following Christ.
Laurel had Hardy - Batman had Robin - The Lone Ranger had Tonto - we need that kind of friend.
"As Iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend...." Pr 27:17 (NLT)
"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work. If one falls down his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up... Though one may be over powered two can defend themselves. A cord of 3 strands is not easlt broken..." Eccl 4:9-12
Stay away from your weak areas....
"Therefore since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress..." Hebrews 12:1
Runners will tell you that they want to know where the finish line is. Whether it’s the 100 yard dash or a marathon a runner still wants to know where the finish line is...
Question; what is our finish line? It’s when we go to be with the Lord (at death or 2nd coming)
Question; where is our finish line? Well, that’s the interesting thing about the race you & I are in. No one knows where that line is... It is different for each of us... Could be 6 months or 40 years and that’s what makes the race tough....
Did you know that their are races where their are contestants who do not face the finish line... Have you ever seen those boat races in the Olympics...Those long sleek boat filled with men sweating and straning, men whose movements are so amazingly synchronized as they pull those longs oars through the water.
Those men have their backs to the finish line! So how can they possibly finish strong? How do they pace themselves and how to they know when to really turn it on? If they can’t see the finish line - and focus on it - THEN how can they row an effective race?
The answer is they focus on the coxswain. He’s the guy with the megaphone sitting at the end of the boat facing the crew. He is the only one who can see the finish line. So all the men at the oars look to him, listen to him, obey his commands, they count on him.
He paces them, he encourages them, and they trust him implicitly to get them across the finish line in the strongest possible way...
That’s the Christian life. How do we finish strong?
We don’t finish strong by focusing on the finish line BECAUSE we don’t know where it is - we do it by focusing on Jesus...
"And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on who our faith depends from start to finish.." Heb 12:1,2 (NLT)
It is never too late to begin doing what is right. As long as you’re breathing, it’s never too late to confess your sin to the Lord in genuine repentance and receive His forgiveness. You may have messed up and messed big time - but the race isn’t over yet.... Just because you have fallen down does not men you still can’t finish strong.