Summary: The first in a series of messages designed to encourage believers to "stay with it"
Finish What You Begin
HOW DO YOU STAY THE COURSE?
“I have fought the good fight”
* In his book, “The Mantle of a Mentor”, Dr. Robert Clinton tells us that the Bible mentions over 1000 leaders. In a 13 year study, he developed case studies on over 900 of these. Later, he reduced that number to 100 and called these “prominent leaders.” Digging further, he realized that only in 49 of these could we determine how they finished. From his studies, he offers us 4 different kinds of finishes for leaders. They are; 1) cut off early (I.E. assassination, prophetically denounced, overthrown), 2) finished poorly (they were going downhill in the latter part of their life), 3) finished so-so (did not do what they could & should have done, didn’t complete God’s purpose for them) By the way, these could be pretty good guys, and 4) finished strong (walking with God, strong in their faith, and close to the Lord). In finishing strong they had to withstand ambushes, distractions, and personal preference.
* Since being Pastor here, I have been repeatedly told and observed that we have a history of not finishing things. Some are probably offended that the pastor would speak in public what has been kept in private, but the way I see it, we must face our struggles (because struggling does not make us second class believers), find a word from God about it (His word has never failed me), gain a new understanding (how to fix it), and then make a change for the better.
* Turn with me to 2 Timothy 4. For the next three Sunday evening, we’ll share together a series of messages entitled, “Finish What You Begin.” All three messages will be take from one verse of scripture.
* Remember this, 2 Timothy is Paul’s swan song, his last letter. He feels like he has given all he has to give. Let’s read.
* Let’s look at the first phrase tonight and answer the question, “How Do I stay the Course?” I offer just 2 or 3 thought from this text.
1. The Difficult Operation – What is this difficult operation? It is “Fighting the Fight.” Don’t know about you, but I’m not a fighter. I am learning to stand firm & lead courageously, but I hate to fight. Even if you are one of those who LOVE to fight, fighting is hard.
* From the beginning of Paul’s journey as a believer, recorded in Acts 9, Paul knew that it was going to be difficult. He knew it was going to be a fight. After all, until his Damascus Road experience Paul was the fighter against those of the way. When he met Christ, Paul knew several things; he knew the struggle was not going away because his former colleagues would pick up the fight. Next, he knew this struggle was not simply between men but rather between the forces of darkness and light, of evil and good, and the devil and God. Paul knew, from the beginning, that if he were to complete the mission given him by his Lord there would be much to overcome. Now, looking back on his life, Paul called the journey of faith “a fight.” Why? Because he remembered the difficulties he encountered along the way. He didn’t have to guess what it was like, he knew.
* Let’s pause for a bit and ask a few questions. Could it be that we get beat down by this culture and this world so much because we don’t recognize this is a fight? Have we had it so easy for so long that we tend to think being a believer in Jesus is only about attending Church (when we can), being an active part of a Sunday School Class, and or having Christian friends. Could it be that we have misunderstood our purpose. Make no mistake, when we stand for our Lord, a fight will break out because the world we live in will hate us.
* Let’s make this a little more personal. When you make a commitment to be consistent in your faith, you will begin to struggle. Don’t believe me? Just commit to a new study, a new level of consistent attendance & participation in corporate worship, a new ministry, a small group, or worse yet, to lead one of these and you know what? Almost everything in your life will go haywire. Commit to consistently tithing or giving above your tithes—and your world will crash down. It is a difficult operation at best and a fight at worst. As long your life is not honoring God, Satan has very little reason to attack.
* However, if you step up, you better be ready. By the way, to be ready means to be prepared for the fight. Growing in this understanding Paul wrote, “Put on the whole armor of God.” (I.E. the Helmet of salvation, Breastplate of righteousness, belt of truth, shoes of the gospel, the shield of faith and the sword of the spirit).