Summary: A sermon delivered to the 2007 annual meeting of the Mountain State Baptist Association exhorting the primarily pastoral audience to finish their ministries well.
1. The first prideful trap that will keep you from finishing well is your prosperity (3-15a)
2. The second prideful trap that will keep you from finishing well is your press clippings (15b-16)
3. The third prideful trap that will keep you from finishing well is your position (17-20)
4. Conclusion: The epitaph of pride (21-23), the epitaph of Paul (2 Timothy 4:6-8)
This afternoon, we will be looking at the recorded life of King Uzziah which is told throughout chapter 26. But for right now, we’ll just read his epitaph. We’ll just read verse 23.
I haven’t seen one in a while, but several years ago, they used to have a commercial on TV for Tombstone frozen pizzas. It had a man standing in front of an old-timey firing squad. The executioner came up and asked the condemned man if he wanted a cigarette. He said no. Then he asked if he wanted a blindfold. Again, he defiantly said no. So finally, the executioner asked him what he wanted on his tombstone. To which the condemned man said, pepperoni and sausage. It doesn’t take much to figure out what we might want on a Tombstone Pizza, does it? But it’s a whole different story when it comes to figuring out what we want on our real tombstone. People try to sum up entire lives in things like obituaries and epitaphs and tombstones. I’m sure that many of you have sat with families as they have tried to come up with the exact right words for an obituary that would sum up the life of a lost loved one. What we’ve just read is a sad example of an epitaph. A sad example of a life that went wrong. A life that was as full of promise and potential as any in Judah’s history. But a life that was ruined by falling into the terrible trap of pride. Uzziah was the king of Judah. God had specifically and specially called him to that position. To lead God’s chosen people. To shepherd God’s chosen people. God specifically and specially called Uzziah to that role, just like He has specifically and specially called many of us to be undershepherds of His flocks. But Uzziah didn’t finish well. Just like many who God calls today don’t finish well. I read some disturbing statistics from George Barna and Focus on the Family this week. 1,500 pastors leave the ministry due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches—EACH MONTH. Over 50% of pastors’ marriages will end in divorce. 80% of seminary graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first 5 years. Almost 40% of pastors who were polled said they have had an extra-marital affair since the beginning of their ministry. One of my Liberty professors handed us an article on the first day of class. It said that 19 of 20 seminary students who entered the ministry would fail to finish their ministry well. And people think the military is a dangerous profession. At least in the military, you usually know who the enemy is and the direction they’re coming from. But that’s not always the case in the ministry, is it? It’s not always the case, because most of the time the enemy is from within. Enemies from without are usually pretty easy to deal with. They’re time consuming and draining, but you can deal with them. But the enemy on the inside is different. He’s sneaky. He’s cunning. And many times he’s almost invisible. But even though he’s almost invisible, he does have a name. His name is pride. And just like he did in the life of Uzziah, he is in the business of setting traps. He set traps in Uzziah’s life. And Uzziah fell into them. And because he fell into them, he failed to finish well. I don’t want that to happen to any of us here today. I want each of us to leave here determined to finish well. But in order to do that, we need to recognize some of the traps that are before us. This afternoon, we’re going to use the tragic story of Uzziah to look at three prideful traps that will keep you from finishing well. The first prideful trap is your prosperity. Back up and look with me at verses 3-5: