Summary: Some of the great people of faith in the Bible did not finish life well. They had downturns.

Sermon Preached at Grace Community Church (EPC)

Sun City Grand, Surprise, AZ

Sunday, April 10, 2016

by the Reverend Cooper McWhirter

The Pursuit of Excellence: “Finishing Life Well!” [Part One]

Philippians 3:1-11

A wise pastor once offered me this piece of advice: “Pursue your philosophy of ministry zealously: Develop it; Nurture it; Cultivate it!” At the time I wasn’t sure what he meant by that. I kept asking myself, “What is a ‘Philosophy of Ministry’? “And what might it look like?” Years past before it became evident what the Lord was calling me to do.

From the time I was a child I appreciated the wisdom voiced by adults. I would sit at their feet, listening to the stories of their lives. So, I suppose my philosophy of ministry began developing at an early age; decades before being called to ministry.

Yes, the Lord’s ministry, through me, has focused on preparing people, especially older adults, for their eventual “homecoming.” Life here on earth is nothing more than a ‘proving ground’, a ‘testing ground’ for our eventual, our inevitable eternal home!

Have you ever considered how many Old Testament figures experienced spiritual lapses in their later years? People like: Noah, David, Solomon and Hezekiah. Many of the great men and women of the Bible experienced downturns. Yes, even Abraham, the “father of the faithful” on occasions fell into a spiritual malaise!

So, if these great men of faith faltered, how can we make sure this doesn’t happen to us? To delve into this probing question, we can begin by…


That is to say, straying from the truths of God and His infallible Word. Whether you’re a neophyte to the faith, or a mature Christian, we all are prone to error. This is why Paul is being repetitive where he writes: “To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.” To the reader it becomes obvious that Paul was reminding the church at Philippi about matters he had previously spoken to them about while he was with them.

One of his greatest concerns had to do with false teachers and their heretical teachings espoused by these so-called “Judaizers”. They were proponents of archaic Jewish laws and traditions which were no longer considered binding. They infiltrated the early church espousing such things as: the need for circumcision of the flesh. However, Paul repudiated such nonsense by emphasizing that the true circumcision has nothing to do with flesh. The true circumcision has to do with the heart. That’s the heart of the matter!

More often than not, when heresy creeps into the church, the principal cause is that of PRIDE! Purveyors of falsehood, whom Paul spoke of as “dogs”, tend to be puffed up and boastful about their preconceived notions.

David Rhodes, an American novelist, spoke of pride as (paraphrasing): “the dandelion of the soul where its roots go deep…its seeds lodge in the tiniest cracks of our being…where it finds it nourishment in good soil. Yes, the danger of pride is that it feeds on goodness.” It’s been said: “Pride is the only disease that makes everyone sick but the one who has it.”

With respect to the pride of the flesh, Paul offers this disclaimer: “For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh – though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also.” To prove his point, the apostle asked them to look at him: “If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.”

In a moment in time, Paul’s credentials were suddenly spewed as though they were nothing of value! In an instant, as he gazed upon the risen Lord, he realized it was what Christ had done for him! Like that of Paul, followers of Christ are no longer bound by the laws of men. Rather, we are bound by the laws of God to which Christ Himself fulfilled at Calvary’s cross!

But another means of preventing us from faltering spiritually is by: LEARNING FROM OUR MISTAKES (repeat).

And this is where we have “the upper hand” on youthful exuberance! As we mature in both age and wisdom, we accumulate a wealth of knowledge based upon a lifetime of experiences. Young people, on the other hand, tend to view themselves as invincible…immortal! Few will ever heed the advice of those who are older and much wiser.

Following along this train of thought, Harry S. Truman once remarked: “I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want to do and then advise them to do it.” Yes, wisdom evolves from learning from past mistakes; learning, but not dwelling on them.

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