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Finishing Well

2017  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Resolutions of change, and finishing well

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Mean It.

Have you ever found yourself in a similar place to those in this illustration video? I certainly have. I am one of those people who bites off more than I can chew. We’ve all set goals, which had to be re-directed or abandoned. Sometimes we simply didn’t realize the full scope of what we were undertaking, and at other times, we found other priorities or lost interest. Perhaps if we can even admit it, sometimes, some of us, have even quit when it got hard. This week I’m going to talk about barriers and solutions to finishing what we start. Accomplishing a goal.

Finishing Well

So what does it mean to “finish well”? In the bible, in 2 Timothy, Paul is in prison, and giving up on any hope that he’ll get out. He was imprisoned at Mamertine Prison in Rome, and that wasn’t a good place. He’s reflecting on his own life, and the goals he set, the things he set out to do and be…and he is trying to encourage Timothy who is getting tired himself, weary from the stresses of ministry. Paul is encouraging Timothy to continue preaching the word, and to continue pastoring this unruly flock who is tempted by other doctrine, which sounds better and is easier to follow. We still have those problems today, but that’s another sermon series perhaps.
You can read more about that situation specifically in .
Let’s read what Paul says about finishing well: He says, “Preach the word to them and they’ll come around....
2 Timothy 4:5–7 NASB95
But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;
2 Timothy 4:5-
Paul knew that his life was over. The greek work used was the same word used to describe the action of folding up a tent or unyoking an ox at the end of it’s duty. In other words…he was done with what he was assigned to do. In , Jesus gives a reference to being about the assigned tasks of your work, and always being ready. He’s talking about laziness. He is literally giving an example of being a good servant, anticipating the needs of a master....by doing one’s job well. He’s talking not about perfection, but of an attitude in which one should go about doing their tasks. This is the cross reference to Paul’s words when he says, “I have fought the good fight and finished the course”.

Finishing 2017 Well

As we’re bringing the close of the calendar year in today, I thought it appropriate to talk about some hurdles to finishing things well, and solutions to those hurdles.

Why we don’t finish what we start

According to Dr Susan Perry, starting new tasks can be a lot like falling in love.
Here’s how she puts it, “It’s exciting, emotionally arousing, infused with the natural motivator of novelty. Perhaps we even get obsessive about this new activity. Then, after some time goes by, the activity or book or lessons (or relationships) turn into harder work than we expected. It takes longer to complete than we’d hoped, or there’s some tedium and drudgery involved. We realize we aren’t sure about the next step. Stuck, we grind to a halt.”
Another expert points out that sometimes we even sabotage our success because of our own insecurities and self doubt. Dr GHOSAIN, continues with an explanation of the all-too-often-true reality that the longer we dwell in a period of inaction on something, the harder and less likely we are to pick it up and continue or complete it.
Rick Warren has some biblical insight into these same concepts.

“Failure to Plan, is a Plan to Fail” Proverbs 27:12

1. We fail when we don't plan ahead. It's like the old saying, "If you fail to plan, you're planning to fail." says, "A sensible man watches for problems ahead and prepares to meet them. But the simple-minded man never looks and suffers the consequences." Are you simple minded? Some of us have a tendency to be impulsive. Yet the sensible man plans ahead.

“Pride Causes Failure”

2. We fail when we think we've arrived. "Pride leads to destruction and arrogance to downfall." When we think we've got it all together, watch out. You're never going to get anywhere if you think you're already there.
Pride causes us to fail. One of the symptoms of pride is we don't think we need any advice. "I've got it all together. I don't need anybody. Me and Jesus, we've got a good thing going. I don't need anybody to tell me what it's all about."

“Fear Causes Failure” Proverbs 25:29

3. We fail when we are afraid to take risks. Prov. 25:29 tells us that the "Fear of man is a dangerous trap but to trust in God means safety." The moment you start to worry about what other people think, you're doomed. It's a trap.
The greatest failure is the failure to try. When I die I want, four words written on my tombstone: "At least he tried." For the glory of God. You've got to take risks. That's what brings abundance. That's what brings success in life. Don't be afraid to go out on a limb; that's where the fruit is. We're afraid to take risks, and we fail.

“Quitting Causes Failure” Proverbs 15:19

4. We fail because we give up too soon. The trouble with many people is that during trying times, they just stop trying. Failure is the path of least persistence. How many ball games have been won in the last seconds? Keep on keeping on. Never give up.
says, "A lazy fellow has trouble all through life." If at first you don't succeed, you're normal. Try again. Many times success is right around the corner. You are never a failure until you quit.

“Not Listening to God Causes Failure” Proverbs 14:12

5. We fail when we don't listen to God. The number one reason we fail is that we don't listen to God. says, "There is a way that seems right to man, but in the end it leads to death." God's Word is filled with guidelines and principles to make our life all that God wants it to be. But most of the time we want to listen to our feelings, "I feel that this is the right thing to do—even if God's Word says it differently."

Realities of Failure

In Romans chapter 3, Paul is talking about justification through faith, and he says, “All have sinned, and all fall short” We’re all weak, and NONE of us have figured out how to succeed absolutely at things, without God’s help. Is anyone familiar with the story of Walt Disney? He tried for decades to get his ideas off the ground in a successful way that would put food on the table for his family. Milton Hershey had three complete failures of candy companies....all ended in bankruptcy or utter failure, prior to founding the monumentally successful Hershey Chocolate Company. I can’t speak to the relationship that Mr Disney or Mr Hershey may or may not of had with God…I really didn’t dive into their history enough to look for an proclamations of faith. The point is that if you’ve found in your life that you seem to fail a lot, or have failed in big ways....you are in good company.

Why Try?

So if we all fail....and we’re all destined for failure…because of a number of reasons....why try at all? Well, actually…there’s a real problem with exactly that phrase. It’s called the “why try effect”, and it’s another more serious form of self defeating, or sabotaging behaviors. We call this “self defeating” behaviors. Here’s the model for the psychoanalysis and diagnosis of this behavior. So it’s a real thing. We fail, we all fall short, we’re our own worst enemy....some truths mixed in with some harsh realities. I have good news.

You are NOT Alone

Perhaps one of the most comforting parts of this, is that you…have some pretty good company. Disney, Hershey, the Apostle Paul....perhaps even the people sitting next to you! Be the peer support for each other here for a second, take a second, each of you…and tell your neighbor, “You are not, alone”.
2 Corinthians 12:9–10 NASB95
And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 corinthians 12:9-10
In our admission of weakness, Christ is able to be our strength.

You are Forgiven

The good news is that for all our past and future failures....we are already forgiven.
Psalm 73:26 NASB95
My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Romans 8:1–2 NASB95
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
Psalm

Here’s why, we try

Here’s why, we try

says that we’ll give an accounting some day. Jesus taught, and His apostles continued to teach, that one of the measures of a changed heart, is a desire to do things and reach people for Christ. We can’t necessarily change the world around us....and it isn’t necessarily our place to do so. God reaches people in many ways, but one of the most impacting ways, is through relationships. As we grow closer to God, by working to eliminate sin and shortcomings in our lives, He is able to use us more.
Ephesians 2:10 NASB95
10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
Ephesians
This is a reference to God’s Plan. His plan to use us relationally, to reach others.
James 2:14–26 NASB95
14 What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. 18 But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” 19 You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.
James 2 NASB95
My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called? If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not commit murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.
Do not take this verse out of context, and think that you can fake your faith…but attempting to put out an image of works. You will fail, and you will take people with you. Hypocrisy is one of the largest reasons why this, and other generations, have left the church. LET ME BE CLEAR… our desire to do works, which can (CAN) be a measure of FRUIT, is an indicator of FAITH. It doesn’t work the other way around.

Solutions

So if we have faith, then good works happen? Yes. YES. But we don’t these things overnight. In some cases, like in my case…it takes supernatural intervention. If you see success in anything that I do…it’s God, and not me. If you see imperfection, that’s me…and not God.
The good news is that for all our past and future failures....we are already forgiven.

Step 1: Trust God

We need to trust Him, for healing and guidance, and the removal of weakness. The barriers to success start to fall away when we believe in His ways over ours, and trust in His plan…which includes TIMING, over ours.
Proverbs 3:5 NASB95
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding.
Not always easy, so here’s the next part:

Step 2: Acknowledge (CRY OUT TO) God

It’s no coincidence that this is the very next verse.....
Proverbs 3:6 NASB95
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.
Give up on the delusion that we can do this on our own. ASK Him for help. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me....but only IF I realize it’s Christ, and not me. (By the way, that’s a reference)

Step 3: Leave ways that are Evil

Whether you acknowledge that there is an enemy working against you, or you recognized your own selfish desires, the reality is that not every whim or desire is healthy. Paul struggled with this, he understood the realities of this world. He wrote:
2 Timothy 2:22 NASB95
22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
Galatians 5:16–17 NASB95
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.
Galatians 5:16-17

Step 4: Holy Spirit

Part of the trinity of God being fully 3 persons, is the Holy Spirit which dwells inside of all who have chosen Christ, and asked for an indwelling of God. Sometimes described as the “still small voice”, one of the ways we communicate with God, is through the Holy Spirit. Jesus talked about this to His disciples:
John 14:26 NASB95
26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.

Step 5: Act

Now Do IT! Doing nothing is a choice. Being crippled by fear of failure, is not a good excuse. Once you know, once you understand that you’ve been called to do something....then you must do it.
James 4:17 NASB95
17 Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.

Step 6: Repeat

It is a process, and we’ve already discussed our propensity for failure. Learn from your mistakes…acknowledge where you got off-track, correct and try again. Grace and forgiveness are not one-time things. Grace through Christ is not like a ‘get out of jail free’ card in monopoly, where you only get to use it once. Develop a daily routine of dedication to God, and His ways, and devote yourself to Him fully. He will bless you in all that you do, and as you learn how to walk in larger steps of obedience and faith, so rewards will also be greater. I’ll have to save the rest of that train of study for another sermon, as I’m coming to the end of my time here.

Finishing Well

Hebrews 11:32–40 NASB95
32 And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; 36 and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated 38 (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. 39 And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.
So whether a small task, or a new year’s resolution, or a task that will take a life time to achieve....finishing, well…is important. While often the importance of the journey and the relationships along the way can seem like the real reward, don’t underestimate the completion as well. If it is of God, then there is a purpose for it. Trust in His plan, and trust in His process for completing His plan in you.
Let’s pray.
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