Summary: It doesn't matter whether we finish first in this race, but it does matter that we "finish pretty." Do you know what that means and what it takes to "look good" when we cross the finish line?
OPEN: I read the true story about a group of friends that wanted to take part in one of those big 26 mile marathons. They ran together for over a year preparing for the meet. They were not trying to be big competitors in the race, they enjoyed running together and - for them – this was going to be a fun thing to do together. Most of them were men, but there was one woman among them named Peg. They all started off at the starting line together and as the day wore on, they found themselves a mere mile away from the finish line. Enjoying the moment they began to banter back and forth about the fact that there’d be lots of cameras and video machines capturing the moment they made it to the end. They began to talk about how they would finish the race and one of the men looked over at Pet and asked: “Hey Peg, how are you going to finish?”
Peg pulled out a tube of lipstick out of her pocket… held it up, and replied, “I’m going to finish “pretty”!”
(from a sermon by Douglas Dudley)
Finishing Pretty! Do you know what she was saying? She was saying she wasn’t going to be satisfied with simply crossing the finish line, she wanted to look pretty for the cameras - she wanted to look good when she finished the course.
And that’s kind of what Paul was saying in our text this morning. It wasn’t enough for him to simply cross the finish line. He wanted to LOOK GOOD when he did so. ‘”I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” II Timothy 4:7-8
You see - when you love Jesus - it’s not enough to simply “get by” in your faith. It’s not enough to simply cross the finish line. It’s not enough to just do enough to get into heaven. There are too many believers that get the impression that getting baptized into Christ and attending Sunday worship for an hour a week is all there is to their faith. But that’s not the way God looks at it.
One of my favorite verses in Scripture is II Chronicles 16:9 “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him...”
God is looking for someone. He’s looking for someone who will be loyal to Him, someone who wants to honor Him, someone who wants to look good at the finish line and who desires to “finish pretty”.
Now, how do we do that? How do we “Finish Pretty”? In Matthew 25 Jesus told the parable of the man who gave each of His servants “talents” and then went away on a trip for a while. “Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘WELL DONE, GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’” Matthew 25:19-21
Now, there are a lot of things we can learn from that parable but what I want to zero in on is that one phrase: “Well Done, Good And Faithful Servant!!!” For those who love Jesus – that’s what we want to hear!!! It’s not enough to just get by we want to cross the finish line and hear God call our name – your name/ my name - and say “WELL DONE!” That’s what it means to “Finish Pretty!”
But now, how do we do that? How do we finish pretty? Well, first we start by realizing the significance of our part in God’s plan.
Paul tells Timothy: “the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” II Timothy 4:3-4
Now, what has that got to with you? Well, you are the defensive wall that stands against “itching ears”. Where you STAND and what you STAND FOR can curb the influence of people who want their ears scratched. You are a “STANDard bearer” for the Church – you stand in the gap and protect God’s church against evil.