Focus on the Finish
Becoming a Champion in 2005:
Focus on the Finish
January 16, 2005
In his book it’s not about the bike.. Lance Armstrong tells of his life growing up in Texas with his mother.
Don’t quit -- you’re not a quitter.
Today I want us to look at the race we are currently running and see
We can finish the race of the spiritual champion by focusing on Jesus.
We have to start by asking ourselves some hard questions.
Have I done things in my life marginally rather than excellently?
Am I too willing to give up on certain visions and initiatives?
Have I followed through on beliefs and convictions?
Have I kept commitments that were pledged?
Have I sat down in the race and quit, not finishing, when I should have kept going?
The question that arises with some regularity: do I intend to finish the race—the race of becoming a spiritual champion in 2005?
Will I be sold out to Jesus, straining to be like him more and more each day?
Will I lose the extra weight of the sins and the distractions that easily hinder my progress?
Will I stop trying harder and begin to train wisely to develop my endurance?
Will I rearrange my life around the needed activities and practices to become more like Jesus? Will I finish the race? Will I hang in there? Will I stick with it until the race is completed?
Our human tendency is to quit too soon. Our human tendency is to stop before we cross the finish line.
Our inability to finish what we start is seen in the smallest of things:
A partly-mowed lawn. A half-read book. Letters begun but not completed.
An incomplete landscaping project.
An abandoned diet.
Or, it shows up in life’s most painful areas:
An abandoned child.
A job hopper.
A course to finish a degree.
A wrecked marriage.
An unevangelized world.
Am I touching on some painful areas? Any chance I’m addressing someone who is considering not finishing the race? If I am, I want to encourage you to look at Jesus.
Don’t quit –you’re not a quitter
In order to finish the race we have to focus on Jesus.
I. The Tender Encouragement
Hebrews 12:2 NASB
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
1. The word author implies something begun or started.
2. The word perfecter suggests something finished, brought to its full completion.
3. And the word faith refers to the body of truth around which the spiritual champion has organized his or her life.
4. The star in this race is Jesus. The writer of Hebrews is writing to a people who are in the mist of being persecuted. The runners in the competition are people who are being beaten up; they are discouraged and downcast; and often, they are on the wrong end of whips and chains suffering from overt persecution.
5. They are counting the cost of the tough life of faith and are considering quitting. They are looking back and wanting to go back, but the Hebrews’ writer is exhorting them to finish the race.
6. Don’t quit. The writer is encouraging them to look at the star runner—Jesus.
7. And as believers today when we look at these words we must ask ourselves the same question. Because we are persecuted today. We are beaten down for what we believe, and often we do become discouraged and downcast in our lives.
8. But like the writer of Hebrews I say keep your eyes on the star runner. Focus on the finish, focus on Jesus.
II. The Star Runner
1. Jesus was not a quitter. Did he ever want to quit? You bet.
2. Tempted by Satan. Burden by the needs of the masses. Frustrated by his closest friends.
3. Plummeted by the words and tortures of his enemies. But He did not quit. He finished the race. That is why His last words spoken from the cross are so fitting,
Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.
4. Stop and listen. Can you imagine the cry from the cross? The thunder has silenced the crowd. The lighting has raised their eyes toward Jesus.
5. Then drawing his last breath, pushing his feet down on that Roman nail, he shouts, “It is finished!”
6. A cry of defeat? Hardly. No, this is no cry of despair. It is a cry of completion. A cry of victory. A cry of fulfillment.
A. Who was this Jesus?
1 Jesus is the creator and sustainer of the universe.
Col. 1:16b NASB
—all things have been created through Him and for Him.
2. The one who holds the planets in orbit says something about his divine resilience.
3. The one who selected unattractive, unlikable, and unreliable men to be his followers and loved them to the end. Says something about his unyielding faithfulness to stick with people.
4. The one who came to seek and save the lost all the way to the cross. Says something about his passionate plan to redeem humanity.
5. He finished the simple things: paying taxes, attending to children, going to the grave of a friend, worshiping in the synagogue, providing for his mother.
6. Says something about his integrity and commitment to detail No unkept promises, no abandoned intentions, no friends let down, no mission left unfulfilled. Is there anything he didn’t finish?
B. What did He do?
-He Lived a perfect life and died on a cross.
who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
2. Credit his strong sense of mission. He knew why he had come to earth and what he had to do to finish his race.
3. Take a hard look at him. “Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever” (Heb. 12:2-3 Msg). He has set the standard. Study his performance. He ran straight through the tape at the finish line. He died in our place.
C. Why did he do it?
Why did He do it?
- To bring us salvation.
"And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved."
(Heb. 12:3 HCSB).
“So that you won’t grow weary and lose heart”
1. He has provided a model and an example for us to follow. He has run the extra mile, endured the hardships, faced the pain, felt the scorn, heard the ridicule.
2. When the going gets tough, he comes alongside of us and says, “I know the pain, the hurt, the agony, but you can continue, you can finish. I am with you.”
D. Where is He now?
Where is He now?
- He is seated at the right hand of the Father.
Hebrews 12:2c NASB
… and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
He is seated “at the right hand of God’s throne” (Heb. 12:2 HCSB). He has finished the race marked out before him.
1. He is seated in a place of honor alongside God, the Father.
2. He has finished the race victorious. Only after he completed his race did he sit down when and where it was appropriate to sit: at the right hand of his Father.
3. With Jesus’ run to the finish line the history-long plan of redeeming man was finished. The message of God to man was finished. The works done by Jesus as a man on earth were finished. The job was finished. The song had been sung. The blood had been poured. The sacrifice had been made. The sting of death had been removed. It was over.
4. Jesus is not a quitter. What he began, he finished.
III. The Main Focus
What about you and me?
1. To finish we must focus. This ability to focus—to stay centered, to bring to bear intense concentration—is a key factor in finishing the race, whether as an Olympic champion or a spiritual champion.
2. But how do we focus on Jesus? How do we keep our eyes on him? Here are a few spiritual exercises that will help to strengthen our focus:
A. Read slowly through one of the Gospels.
As you read, ask yourself: “What did Jesus do? What did he say? What can I imitate for my own life?”
B. Start and end each day with prayer.
For many centuries spiritual champions have learned to make Jesus their first thought and last thought of the day. Train yourself to look first at Jesus as you begin the day and to take a few moments to look at him as you close your eyes for sleep.
C. Practice the presence of Jesus.
As you go about your daily routines say prayers, reflect on God’s goodness, have devotional calendars and notes around to remind you of Jesus.
D. Keep asking the question, “What would Jesus do?”
This simple question made famous by Charles Sheldon in his book In His Steps will revolutionize your work, your play, even your worship.
Are you close to quitting? Please don’t do it. Are you ready to give up on a relationship? Give it another try. Do you feel like calling it quits with a child? Tell them you love them and offer a new start. Are you pessimistic about your job? Roll up your sleeves and go at it again. Can’t resist temptation? Accept God’s forgiveness and go one more round.
Remember Jesus selected you for the race. He doesn’t want you to quit. He is beside you to encourage, he is before you to model, and he is behind you to support. Listen to the chorus of the committed testifying from the stands that you can finish.
An amazing story came out of the 1968 Olympics held in Mexico City. The closing ceremonies had just been completed. The spectators and athletes, still warm from the euphoria of the celebration, were gathering their belongings to leave the stadium. Then the announcer asked them to remain in their seats. Down the boulevard came the whine of police sirens. From their vantage point, many in the stadium could see motorcycles with their flashing blue lights, encircling someone making his way toward the stadium. Whoever it was, he was moving slowly.
Everyone remained seated to see the last chapter of the Olympics take place. By the time the police escort got to the stadium, the public address announcer said that a final marathoner would be making his way into the arena and around the track to the finish line. Confusion was evident among the crowd. The last marathoner had come in hours ago. The medals had already been awarded. What had taken this man so long? The first sign of the runner making his way out of the tunnel and onto the track told the whole story.
John Stephen Akhwari from Tanzania, covered with blood, hobbled into the light. He had taken a horrible fall early in the race, whacked his head, damaged his knee, and endured a trampling before he could get back on his feet. And there he was, over 40 kilometers later, stumbling his way to the finish line.
The response of the crowd was so overwhelming it was almost frightening. They encouraged Akhwari through the last few meters of his race with a thundering ovation that far exceeded the one given the man who, hours earlier had come in first. When Akhwari crossed the finish line, he collapsed into the arms of the medical personnel who immediately whisked him off to the hospital.
The next day, Akhwari appeared before sports journalists to field their questions about his extraordinary feat. The first question was the one any of us would have asked, “Why, after sustaining the kinds of injuries you did, would you ever get up and proceed to the finish line, when there was no way you could possibly place in the race?” John Stephen Akhwari said this: “My country did not send me over 11,000 kilometers to start a race. They sent me over 11,000 kilometers to finish one.”
He was running for himself; he was running for his country; he refused to quit.
When you are tempted to throw in the towel remember that you are not running for fame or fortune, but for your God. It doesn’t matter that you may set no world records. It doesn’t matter whether you finish first or last. God has called you to run this race and he expects you to finish. Here’s the secret with God: Everyone who finishes gets the gold.
In World magazine, interviewer Larry King said:
I can't make that leap that a lot of people around me have made into belief that there's some judge somewhere. I have a lot of respect for true people of faith. . . . I've done so many interviews on it. I've always searched. But as someone said, "Did you ever sit down and read the Bible cover to cover?" The answer's no, because I don't know who wrote it. I'm too in my head to be into faith. Faith is a wonderful thing. I envy people who have it. I just can't make the leap.
I remember as a kid, my father died when I was young, and that was unexplainable to me. The God of the Old Testament, I didn't like things he did. "Abraham, sacrifice your son." That always bothered me as a kid. I remember thinking, Why would he do that to Abraham? As a test? So I said to myself, I don't know. I just don't know. That's still true to this day.