The apostle Paul was obsessed with finishing well.
He saw life as a race. When meeting with the Ephesian elders for the last time, he said: "However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace"—Acts 20:24. Paul was so motivated to finish well, that he challenged the Corinthian believers to "run (the race) in such a way as to get the prize...not...running aimlessly"—1 Cor. 9:24-26.
In that passage he describes his disciplined training. He says He disciplined his body to make it do what it must, not what it wanted to, so that "having preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize"—v. 27. Then he came to the end of the race. What joy filled his heart as he testified at the end of his life: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith"—2 Tim. 4:7.
What moved the apostle Paul to press on, to go all the way to the finish line? Whatever it was,
Recently when I started a study of the book of Daniel, I began in chapter 6, at the end of Daniel's life. I saw how he finished; I saw his resolve, even in the face of a lion's den. Then I asked the question, "What got him to the place of uncompromising faith?"
With that question in mind, I began at the beginning of the book where I saw the initial commitments of Daniel and his three buddies, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. It was because they started right and maintained that initial commitment, that they ended well.
From the example of Daniel, the call is to determine how each of us wants to end up. We can then back up from that point and determine what we need to do, what character we need to develop, what prayers we need to pray, what disciplines we need to establish in order to finish well.
That remains a challenge, no matter how old or young we may be.
What about George Mueller? What enabled him to finish well? After establishing an orphanage for 2,050 children, he continued to raise all the support for the orphanages, even while traveling 200,000 miles. The day before he died at age 93, he was still handling orphanage correspondence and protesting that he felt fine.
What about Oswald Chambers? Up to the end of his 43 years, he served the Lord in Egypt ministering to British soldiers. Oswald often said, "I don't care what God does, it's what God is that I care about." His journals and sermons even after his death, continue to bless people around the world. My Utmost for His Highest continues to sell well even today.
What about John Sung, a brilliant Chinese student with a Ph.D. in Chemistry? After several years at Union Theological Seminary where his faith was tested, and six months of forced confinement in psychiatric wards, he was released to return to China for 15 years, a highly effective but exhaustive ministry. Thousands were converted, and revival broke out wherever he spoke.
All of these people provide a call to end well. What is it that enabled these people to finish their courses, in spite of their lack of perfection? Observe:
The characteristics of those who finish well
Heb. 12:1-3—"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 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, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3] Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
From this passage and the words of authors like Paul Stanley and Robert Clinton, I have observed six characteristics in people who finished well. Here's the list as a preview. We'll view all but the last one.
They had a network of meaningful relationships with peers and those they discipled, as well as several important mentors during their lifetime—Heb. 12:1a.
They all had a weight problem and were clumsy, but they were constantly working at it—Heb. 12:1b. Stated another way: They all needed to be honest and confessional about their weaknesses and sins.
They persevered in difficult times and were disciplined in important areas of their lives—Heb. 12:1c.
They had perspective that enabled them to focus—Heb. 12:2.
They enjoyed intimacy with Christ and experienced repeated times of inner renewal—Heb. 12:3.
They maintained a positive learning attitude and life-style all their lives, and were committed to the Lord and His Word as the main source of that learning —2 Tim. 3:16; Matt. 11:28.
- Note: This last characteristic, is seen best in a complete study of the life Daniel. He models for us how to maintain a learning and praying posture our whole life.
Extract from an article, "Finishing Well" by Rev Robert C. Stone