Sunday, December 28, 2008

Finishing Strong


Winston Churchill said, “A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.”

It has been said that it matters less where you begin in life than where you end up. I believe this statement has merit.

Life can be likened to a race or a game with a definite beginning, a definite end and a whole lot of time in the middle where people jockey for position. As long as you are still in the race, there’s a chance you will win. But, take yourself out of the game and it’s certain you lose.

One significant difference between life and any other game or race, is that in life we only compete against ourselves. Even though others may be involved, each person’s life is judged by no greater criteria than how they did when measured against their own individual potential.

Life offers us opportunities both to fail and to succeed and these always come wrapped together in the same package.

We cannot always determine what we go through but we can determine how we will go through it.

There is a song from the 80’s or 90’s which says,

I am determined to be invincible
Till He has finished His purpose in me
Nothing can shake me and He’ll never forsake me
I am determined to live for the King!

Determination is often the ingredient that holds us true to course even in the midst of winds which blow contrary to our chosen path. Determination turns our potential into reality.

Most stories about people in the Bible contain some element of a hardship they faced and details how they handled these situations.

This morning, as we approach the end of this year, we are going to take a critical look the lives of three people in the Bible. These three people face situations in life which gives them opportunity to fail or succeed, depending on how they choose to handle these situations.

The first person we are going to look at is Joseph, the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham. You can find his story beginning in the 30th chapter of Genesis.


* Born eleventh of the twelve sons of Jacob, the first son of Jacob’s favored wife Rachael, who had been barren for many, many years.
* As Rachael’s son, Joseph became the favorite son. This disparity created a great sibling rivalry between Joseph and his brothers.
* One day Joseph was sold into slavery to foreigners by his ten older brothers who hated him with a jealous hatred.
* Joseph spent years in slavery and prison in a foreign land.
* But Joseph never forgot his loyalty and his commitment to Jehovah, the covenant God of his fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
* Although his hardships increased and lasted near twenty years, Joseph won the battles within himself and kept his faith.
* In the end Joseph became second ruler over all of the land of Egypt and saved his family from starvation and became a key player in the plan of God for the whole world.
* We remember Joseph best of all from his life scripture when he faced his brothers and had power over them to punish them for what they had done to him. He could have taken revenge but …
* Joseph saw a bigger picture than his painful past and said:

Genesis 45:5 "But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.

* Joseph realized that he had been chosen by God and that the things which had happened to him were for a greater purpose.
* We too have been chosen … Jesus said it this way:

John 15:16 "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.

* Neither the world nor the devil holds ultimate authority or power over your life. When standing trial before Pilate, the Roman Governor of Judea, Pilate told Jesus, “Don’t you know who I am? I have the power to crucify you or set you free!”

John 19:11 Jesus answered, "You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin." (Allow me to tell you who is really in trouble here.)

After it was all said and done, Joseph, and Jesus, finished strong.

The second person we are going to look at today is Esther, Queen of the Persian Empire


* Esther lived in Persia, modern Iran, about the year 479BC.
* Esther was a Jewish girl who lost both of her parents at an early age and began being cared for by her older cousin, Mordecai.
* Most likely still a teenager, Esther was forced to enter a contest to become Queen of Persia … the rules were very strict and required Esther to enter the harem of the King Xerxes … in the course of time, Esther won the King’s favor and was crowned Queen.
* However, Esther was not always welcomed in court, as the law stated that if anyone came to see the King without first being summoned, they would be summarily executed.
* This was also true for even the Queen. The only escape from this certain death sentence was for the King to grant an immediate pardon and this was very, very rare.
* There came a time when the King signed a law that allowed Jews to be stolen from, and even murdered without penalty. At this time the King was unaware that his Queen, Esther, was a Jew.
* Mordecai knew that Esther was the only person who could possibly help. He asked Esther to go to the King on behalf of her people.
* Initially Esther refused out of fear for her life but later realized that perhaps this was the very reason why she had been blessed to become Queen in the first place. Maybe this was all a part of God’s bigger plan.
* We remember Esther best of all from her life scripture as she faced the most difficult decision of her life: Should she risk her life and position to speak up for others who were being mistreated?
* She put her trust in God and said:

Esther 4:16b “I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!”

* Esther went unannounced before the King, received his immediate favor and pardon, artfully pled her case strategically guided by the Holy Spirit, and won a great victory.

Now that is finishing strong.

* You see, the Bible says:

Romans 9:16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.

* God really is in control and He is working all things together for the good of them who love Him and for those who are called according to His purposes. (Romans 8:28)

So far this morning we have looked at two very common and ordinary people in their day, Joseph and Esther. You may be more familiar with the next person.

The third person we are going to review is actually a work in progress … the third person is you.


* I do not know all it took God to get you to this place or what He has planned for your life which, at this moment, you are completely unaware of. However, what I do know is that God is much more involved in your life than you can imagine and that He is presently working to perfect those things which concern you.
* Just like Joseph, Esther and even the Apostle Paul along with so many others in the Bible, for the rest of your life you will continue to be a work in progress. Each day and in every way the encounters life affords you will present you with opportunities to fail and opportunities to succeed … it all depends on how you handle life.
* You have been chosen by God and are presently being prepared to serve His plan in your greatest capacity.
* Do not fear the pressures, problems and/or the uncertainties of life. Our God is able and with Him all things are possible … even your success.
* What will your life scripture be? What will you say in the end when you have faced the giant like David, been swallowed up by a great fish like Jonah, found yourself in a new place where you have no family or friends like Ruth, are asked to believe something impossible like Mary or given some great tasks to fulfill like the Apostles were given by Jesus when He ascended into heaven?
* What will your last words be? How will others remember you?
* With each decision you are writing the story others will one day tell about you. What will be your legacy?

The Apostle Paul penned his when he said to Timothy:

2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Joseph finished strong, Esther finished strong and I have confidence that you can too.

Decide right now that you are going to begin a new chapter in your life. Why wait until January 1st to make your resolution? Make your declaration today and choose to finish 2008 strong.

Victory and success begin with a decision and they gain daily strength through the daily declaration of our faith in God’s future for our life.

The Bible is a book of true life stories in which people, despite the hardships of life, finish strong because of their faith in God.

You can be one of God’s success stories … ask Him to help you and He will.

Get on God’s side and finish strong.