Sermons

Summary: Making a careful start projects a successful finish! If we started the year right, we must maintain our focus to finish it right!

Introduction:

Mart haughtily declared his New Year’s resolution on Christmas Eve to his friends. "From the first minute of the year 2010, I’ll strategically quit smoking", he bragged. All his friends laughed mischievously. At a New Year’s Eve party, Mart and his friends gathered for a countdown. Immediately after the countdown and the inebriated dudes made a raucous scream, "Happy New Year", Mart turns to his friend, and asks for a cigarette. "On Christmas Eve you’ve boldly declared your New Year’s resolution to quit smoking", Ben asked mockingly. Mart responds with a sheepish grin. "I’m actually in the process of quitting; right now, I am about to successfully finish the first step of my strategy." "First step?" Ben shrieked. "Really", chuckled Mart, "The first step, I’ve quit buying."

In sprint competitions, swimming rf track, the first few meters are the most crucial segments. Sprinters have totally different strategies from those running a long-distance race. It is in these few paces that zealous athletes could predict almost accurately how the race will come to an end. In tracks, they make sure that their positioning was perfect and their best energy rockets the first paces.

We have started the year a couple of weeks ago. How did you start? How well do you think you’re going to reach the end of this year? The Bible is replete of priceless precepts and principles that we can draw from.

Proposition:

I would suggest three important principles that we need to keep hold onto, and apply them regularly, in order to make a careful start that would eventually catapult us into a degree where we can claim a successful finish;

1. Learn from your Past Experiences!

2. Live in your Present Circumstances!

3. Look into your Future Assurances!

Similar to sprints, making a careful start projects, although it does not absolutely guarantee, a successful finish.

1. Learn from your Past Experiences!

"Forgetting what is behind" v.13

It is highly essential that we do a sensible evaluation of the past. History is a significant factor that affects all current events. We will be much more capable, and all the more efficient to deal with our present issues if we would only delve into the roots. If we look back into our past and evaluate clearly and determine its core, we would find that there is not much difference to what we are now. We have burdens and blessings then. So have we now. It just depends on our perspective:

a. Our past burdens reveal the glory of God.

Our burdens in the past magnify the sovereignty of God. We must come to understand that God is more concerned on how we deal with our problems, and glorify God in spite of the loads that we bear. Hardships, sufferings, poverty and sickness may come taking their turns in harassing us, but can we boldly and faithfully say, "I’d rather be a pauper in the kingdom of God than a prince in the kingdom of the world"?

b. Our past blessings reveal the greatness of God.

Our blessings in the past magnify the generosity of God. Do you clearly see a generous God after all those painful and gainful days? God’s blessings don’t always come in a colorful package. We need to look back with the eyes of gratitude. Even our past struggles had turned out for our good – they produced in us valuable virtues such as diligence, patience, confidence and competence.

A careful evaluation of the past is equivalent to a careful preparation for the present. Socrates once said, "The unexamined life is not worth living". Perhaps, you have just let the first couple of weeks of 2010 pass without looking back. Take time to reflect and evaluate your life in 2009, and from there make a careful start.

2. Live in your Present Circumstances!

"Straining towards what is ahead" v.13

We need to develop a strong conviction in the present. There is a stark disparity between conviction and preference. Preference is a strong belief in a person that develops into one’s life principles. But preference is affected by an individual’s surroundings – environment, circumstances and condition. It can change at any given time. Conviction is not so. It is more solid than preference. It is not affected by an individual’s surroundings. Rather, it is framed by one’s strong belief regardless of his or her surroundings. It will not change. To have a clear view of our present life, we need a strong conviction:

a. Our present burdens should not make us complain.

Our burdens are intended for our improvement. Struggles and burdens should not be dealt upon with complaints. It is complaining that makes them become problems. Psychologists did a research to trace the origin of problems and complaints. It was found that these two are interrelated. It was found that problems are not caused by harsh situations; rather, problems arise when people start to complain about their situations.

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