1994 was a great year for the NBA draft. Three players emerged from the ’94 draft who were destined for greatness: Grant Hill, Jason Kidd and Glenn Robinson. It is rare when there are three players in a year who can single-handedly turn a franchise around but ’94 was one of those years.
Hill impacted Detroit, Kidd revolutionized the Dallas Mavericks and Glenn Robinson put Milwaukee on the map making them a threat now to every team in the league. When it came time to give the Rookie of the Year award for only the third time in NBA history it ended in a tie. Kidd and Grant were co-Rookies of the year and Glenn Robinson was right behind them.
But it’s not how you start its how you finish.
The year 1945 was remarkable too. If ’94 was remarkable for hoop stars ‘45 was remarkable for preachers. In that year twenty-seven year old evangelist Billy Graham stormed onto the scene from nowhere filling up auditoriums across the country preaching the Gospel. Hired as an evangelist with Youth for Christ his reputation as a preacher roared across America. There were two other young preachers in ’45 who were just as talented, Chuck Templeton and Bron Clifford. All three were in their twenties yet Templeton was said to be the most gifted young man in America for preaching. Clifford packed ‘em in too in ’45 preaching to thousands in Miami where they lined up twelve deep outside trying to get in.
Graham, Templeton and Clifford came shooting out of the starting blocks like rockets.
You’ve heard of Graham but how come you’ve never heard of Templeton or Clifford? Templeton after 5 years was no longer a believer in Christ. Templeton left the ministry to pursue radio and television commentating. Clifford lost his family his ministry and his health, then his life to alcohol 9 years after coming out of the chute. 3 started but within 10 years only one was still on track. So why have you only heard of Billy Graham?
Because in the Christian life it’s not about how you start its how you finish.
John Maxwell tells the story of Charlie Grimm when he was managing the Chicago Cubs. A scout was so pumped up and overwhelmed with a prospect that he’d been tracking he could hardly restrain himself when he called Charlie. “Charlie! I’ve come across the greatest pitcher I have ever seen! He struck out every man that came to bat. Twenty-seven came up and twenty seven struck out! Nobody even hit a foul ball until the ninth inning. I’ve got the kid right here with me. Do you want me to sign him?” “No” replied Charlie. Find the guy who hit the foul ball and sign him. I’m looking for hitters.”
Charlie knew what he was looking for, and he didn’t waver. Charlie wasn’t looking for pitchers he was looking for hitters.
Like Charlie, God isn’t looking for someone to just start, he’s looking for someone to finish strong. There are lots of people who have started in this Christian life, but God is looking for finishers.
The Bible gives us a glimpse of not only how to finish but how to “run” this race in life. I believe that when most people say, “it’s not how you start its how you finish”, avoid the issues that happen “in between”.
I believe that scripture today has a particular form for running, everyone can’t be the fastest man on the planet but we can be efficient when we run. The same holds true in life. Not all of us can attain the same success but its how you live your life that determines how you finish. Keep this thought in mind as we read the text today;
It’s not how you start that determines your finish its how you run.
The first thing that scripture references is who it is we are surrounded by. So in order to run we need to;
SEE THE CROWD. The first verse reads, “...since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses...” The people in the crowd today are just spectators. This great cloud of witnesses proves that God can see us through. They aren’t witnessing what we are doing, like the people in the stadium today, the people who make up this crowd, who reside in heaven, are spiritual giants. This huge crowd is made up of people some of which are listed in chapter 11, what we call the “Hall of Faith”. People like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah who were still living by faith when they died. The crowd includes but isn’t limited to Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and many others whose lives are a witness of the same God we serve. Their lives are the model of faith that we should want to emulate.
We have much to learn by what they did and did not do, they bear witness then of the God that bore witness to them.
Your coach will often use several techniques to get the best out of you. He wants to have a positive influence on you and your career, he’ll say things like. “Other players have done it you can do it too!” Might be one of his encouragements. “Just think of all the fame and fortune you’ll get!” was another. “Watch the best and see how they do it!” might be another, all in an effort to get the best from you. The great cloud of witnesses that have gone before us bear the same approach for our Christian life. They are reminders that God wants the best for our lives. We finish well when we see the crowd of witnesses that came before us. Whoever is influencing your life has an influence on your finish.
So my question to you today is, who is it that you spend your time getting to know? It’s said that you’re, “guilty by association” these witnesses bear salvation by association. If you want to “run” with efficiency in life than your going to have to train with the “giants of faith”, they’re found in the Old Testament.
It’s not how you start but who you run with that makes all the difference in the finish!
So we need to see the crowd if we’re going to finish strong scripture then shows us that we need to see the ambush.
SEE the AMBUSH
The text reads, “...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles...”
Athletes used to wear training weights to help them prepare for events; this practice has been going on for hundreds of years. Today you see this same practice in baseball as the batter in the hole puts a weighted “donut” on his bat as he takes swings before stepping up to the plate. You’d never wear the weights in the race or in the game because it would hinder your play, you remove them first in order to win. The baseball player takes the weight off so he can swing away. He would never leave it on because he wants the best chance at success.
Your ability to see what is weighing you down in life will dictate how you run in life and correspondingly how you finish. What are the “weights” that we should remove so that we might run to win? We have some things in our life that encumber us hinder us weigh us down making it difficult to climb, walk or run through life. Often times it’s a series of poor choices over time that subtlety becomes a pattern of destruction that we don’t see. We need to see the ambush if we’re going to live life and live it to the full. There may be an unrecognizable pattern of behavior in your life right now that you don’t realize is keeping you from where God wants to lead. That’s why its an ambush you don’t see it. The “weight” in your life may be a friend in your past that has a behavioral pattern that is contrary to where God is leading. Unless you lay aside that which hinders, your “run” in life may be affected disastrously. Be intentional about the people you choose as friends especially the friends who have chosen you. Often times its their eyes you need to see the ambush when you can’t. Do you have people in your life who will call sin a sin and alert you to make a change so that you can run righteously and finish strong? Handle your sin problem like you’d handle an injury that could keep you out of the lineup. Let the blood of Jesus treat the wounds of sin. Handle your sin problem like you’d handle an error in your bank account.
Its not how you start but whether you see the ambush that determines how you finish.
Be encouraged as you run this race of life you have a cloud of witnesses. See the Crowd. Know that you may have to throw off some things that may seem good but are holding you back, see the ambush. Finally SEE the TAPE.
Scripture tells us in verse 2 that we should “fix our eyes on Jesus”. If you feel like you’re going through the worst of times get your focus on Jesus. If you know God is disappointed with the poor choices you’ve made fix your life on Jesus. If you are having trouble saying no to the things that tempt to destroy fix your thoughts on Jesus. Why? Scripture answers because he is the author and the perfecter of our faith. How can he ask such a thing from us? Because he endured the burdens and beatings associated with the cross and he kept his eyes on where he had come from; the right hand of the throne of God.
You could try to follow the example of some great athlete for years and be a failure. But if you could go back and somehow have him enter into your life and get his know-how and ability that would make you a winner too. That’s what Christ does when we trust him. The enabler enters in to our lives as we trust him and he increases our faith so we can run the race and hit the tape!
Renaldo Nehemiah former receiver for the 49ers and world record holder in the 110m hurdles had this to say about his event.
"I try to run right through the hurdle, as though it's not even there," he says. "A lot of hurdlers, you can see them jump when they run. With me, it's more or less running...”
Nehemiah visualizes his event as a nearly unimpeded run down a straightaway. We need to be so focused on the things of Christ so absorbed in what he’s doing as he orchestrates things in our life that the “hurdles” around us no longer take up our worry or impeding us even when we stumble we are already getting back up. Never take your eyes off of the founder of your faith and live today as though you are going to hit the tape and finish strong.
That’s how the author of Hebrews tells us we should run this race of life. He gives us our focus while we are conquering kingdoms, enforcing justice, stopping the mouths of lions and being made strong through our weakness. Our focus needs to be on the one who is holding the tape, Jesus himself. John 14:2 tells us that it is Jesus who has gone, “to prepare a place” for us. Jesus is there now preparing and watching as we hit the tape finishing strong.
Allow yourselves to be influenced by the “Hall of Faith” when you spend time with them.
Get in your word and this great cloud of witnesses will open your spiritual eyes to see the ambush that lies ahead.
Live your life with the eternity that Jesus purchased in focus and you’ll hit the tape running as you finish strong.