Crossing the Finish Line

by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.

Summary: The success of our Christian life is not measured by how fast we sprint away from the starting line. No! Victory is won by running the full race, finishing strong, and crossing the finish line.

1 Timothy 4:1  The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.

2 Samuel 1:19  How the mighty have fallen in battle!

•• Too many of our own have fallen in the battle.
• A Christian friend of mine abruptly left his wife of 30+ years and married his childhood sweetheart.

• Another friend (formerly an ordained minister) spent his final years on earth embittered against God and the church.

• Men I walked with in ministry have abandoned the faith — one said recently he doesn’t know if he still believes in God!

• Even Moses faltered near the end — not in his faith, but in his conduct.

1 Corinthians 10:1, 6, 12, KJV  Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea ... [6] Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.... [12] Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.

•• Let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.
• The Israelites, at that time the chosen people of God, experienced God’s greatness — the glory cloud, the Red Sea parting. So have we experienced many displays of God's greatness and glory.

• But [6] they lusted after evil things. So might we.

• Considering them ... take heed to your own walk.

Ecclesiastes 9:11  I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift...

•• Our average allotment of time on earth is 70-80 years.
• This is not a sprint! It’s a long-distance race, with the goal of crossing the finish line still upright and still going forward.

• I used to run the mile. You get tired!

• I won my first 800-meter and mile races in high school by finishing strong — not by sprinting from the starting line, but by crossing the finish line first.

• One of my sons was leading the Oregon state 800-meter finals for one lap at Hayward Field, but couldn't maintain that pace on the second lap.

2 Timothy 4:6-7  ...the time has come for my departure. [7] I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

•• Paul finished his race.

•• Think ahead to your death bed, if God graciously grants you time to reflect at that time.
• What a joy to be able to echo Paul’s words.

• Moses did his most fruitful ministry from the age of 80 to 120!

• Make up your mind to finish strong. Don't lost sight of the finish line.

• Don’t get passive; be determined.

Colossians 4:17, KJV  And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.

•• “...that thou fulfill it.” A few reflections:
“Fulfill” God’s calling. Lord willing, I intend to teach the Word of God, primarily via this website, as long as my advancing years allow. [2014 personal update: Now well into my senior years, I find great joy and satisfaction in devoting time each day to spreading the word of God through this website.]

“the ministry which thou hast received” — focus on your calling.

Take heed to the ministry...” — Pursue it, don’t let tiredness divert you. Put away other things and devote your energies to important things.

Hebrews 12:2  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross...

KJV:  Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith

•• Fix your eyes on Jesus. If you lose focus on Him, you’ll lose focus, period!

•• “The author and finisher of our faith”
• Jesus understood “finish lines.” He had 30 quiet years, then 3-1/2 years of finishing strong.

Matthew 10:22  ...he that endureth to the end shall be saved.

• John the Baptist had about 30 quiet, preparatory years, then perhaps one year(?) of fruitful ministry unto death. He finished strong!

1 Corinthians 9:25-27  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.... [26] Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. [27] No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

•• Strict training! — not the path of least resistance
Prayer and bible study don’t just “happen.” They require a conscious choice.
•• Make your body your slave, not vice versa.
• During my first-ever 1/2-mile race, my body wanted to quit. I had to force it to obey and finish.
•• Lest we be "disqualified for the prize" — I don’t like the sound of that!

Acts 20:23-24, KJV  Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. [24] But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy...

•• That’s the attitude that will get you to the finish line: “None of these things [will] move me...”

•• There’s the goal — crossing the finish line — to “finish [your] course with joy.”

1 Thessalonians 2:4  On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.

•• Don’t be discouraged by man’s appraisal of you or your ministry.

•• Take heed to your ministry.

•• Run your course.

•• Finish your race.

•• Purpose to please God, and let man’s appraisals mean very little to you.

Psalms 92:13-14  ...planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. [14] They will still bear fruit in old age...

•• Stay planted in a good local church.

•• Stay focused on Jesus. Fix your eyes on Him.

•• Take heed to your walk, that you do not fall.

•• Remember, the race is not to the swift, but to the finishers.

•• Sharpen your focus, purpose to fulfill your calling.

•• Maintain strict training. I still work out or take exercise walks almost daily at age 62. Keep the same focus on spiritual exercise.

•• Purpose to please God, not man.

•• And let no hardships move you as you finish your course and still bear fruit in old age. Stay focused on crossing the finish line.

Preached at the Heritage Ministers Fellowship annual conference,
at South Valley Church, Phoenix, Oregon, June 29, 2005


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©2005, James H. Feeney. Copyright statement.