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Friday, May 10, 2019

Finishing Well
Yesterday I visited for a few minutes with Grover DeVault who is running the race to the finish line. He is a retired army chaplain and Bible College professor. He was the Pennsylvania State Police chaplain during the Amish schoolhouse shooting here in Lancaster County in 2006, ministering to the state police, first responders and Amish community.

"Lessons From Coach"
"The Finish"

Note: This week we have considered lessons we can learn from "running the race" since in several instances the Bible describes the Christian life as running a race. We have input from our very experienced 81 year old friend, Coach Bill, who coached track and field for over 50 years. Today let us consider the finish.

Message summary:  We will all finish this race. The question is, "Will we finish well?"

Listen to our message on your audio player.

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

The finish
Today we conclude our week-long series drawing spiritual illustrations from running a race.

In Tuesday's message we considered the start of the race and noted how there are many starts in our life beginning with our conception. On Wednesday Brooksyne and I celebrated our 43rd wedding anniversary, the start of our marriage.

We also have many finishes in life, some joyful, some not. We have two young people who stayed overnight with us. One took her final tests on Thursday for the finish of her school years. She's done well and that's a joyful finish. But she's not finished with the most important race of life. In fact no one reading this has experienced the most important finish of all.

Coach Bill Preston 4/29/19Coach Bill offers this thought,

Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:7 "I have finished the race", but in a sense he really hadn't completely finished as he continued the race to his death. We don't race to the finish line, we run through the tape. A consideration for our older readers is that just because we can't do many of the things we could do at a younger age we can still get the message out."

In 1997 we watched the Boston Marathon near the finish line where it's a joyful finish for so many runners.

Each day, unheralded for the most part, thousands of Christian runners also finish a race. Apart from their own family, church, and close friends very few are publicly recognized. Certainly not to the degree entertainers, athletes, politicians and other "famous" people are often recognized and celebrated.

But the most notable recognition that really counts will be on the other side where Christian runners aspire to hear the words of our Lord say, "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:21).

In our daily texts we see several components of finishing well in life's race:

1) "I consider my life worth nothing to me". John the Baptist said it so well, "He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30).

2) "Completing the task the Lord Jesus has given me--the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace". Essentially this is the great commission given to all His disciples. Like the apostle Paul, we also have "the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace". We are certainly apportioned with a variety of specific giftings. You may be a student, a businessperson, a homemaker, a professional or a "minister". You may be young or old, black, white or otherwise. You may be wealthy or not so wealthy. But if you are a follower of Jesus Christ you are called to "the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace". Let us all be faithful in doing so!

3) "I have fought the good fight". In 1 Timothy 6:12 Paul wrote, "Fight the good fight of faith".  This is not a physical fight, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil" (Ephesians 6:12). If you are not fighting you have surrendered to the enemy!

4) "I have kept the faith". Each generation is called to keep and contend for the faith once for all entrusted to the saints (Jude 3). The definite article is very significant in each of these texts. The order in the Greek emphasizes this, "The faith I have kept." "The faith" is the apostolic doctrine taught from the very beginning of the church age. This is the standard we must maintain.

We will all finish this race. The question is, "Will we finish well?"

A wonderful promise follows our second daily text. "In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing" (2 Timothy 4:8).

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we want to run the Christian race wholeheartedly testifying to the gospel of Your grace all the days of our life. We choose to fight the good fight, and keep the faith as we finish the race. It's not the one who runs the swiftest, nor the one who runs for a day, but the one who endures to the end who shall be saved. We anxiously await the rapturous moment when we cross the finish line from mortality into immortality, from death unto life eternal, when we will hear Your wonderful commendation, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Many years ago we shared this story in a Daily Encouragement titled "We're Not Home Yet!"

An old missionary couple who had been working in Africa for many years returned to New York City to retire. With no pension and broken in health, they were discouraged and somewhat fearful of the future.

They happened to be booked on the same ship as Teddy Roosevelt who was returning from a big-game hunting expedition. They watched the passengers trying to glimpse the great man, the crew fussing over him, photographers flashing their oversized cameras.

Back at the dock in New York locals squeezed into every available space, the band with their instruments positioned to break into celebratory music as the president departed the ship. Yet the missionary couple who had given their all to reach the African people for Christ slipped off the ship completely unnoticed.

That night, in a cheap flat they rented on the East Side, the man's spirit finally broke.  He said to his wife, "I can't take this; God is not treating us fairly."  His wife, no longer able to cope with his agitated spirit, suggested he go into the bedroom and speak to the Lord about that which he was feeling.

A short time later he walked out of the bedroom with a brighter countenance.  His wife asked, "Dear, what happened?"

"The Lord settled it with me," he said.  "I told him how bitter I was that the president should receive this tremendous homecoming, when no one was present to meet us as we returned home.  And when I finished, it seemed as though the Lord put His hand on my shoulder and simply said, 'But you're not home yet!'"

This week' series considers lessons from life's race:
Monday: "Running The Race Set Before Us"
Tuesday: "The Start"
Wednesday: "The Hurdles"
Thursday: "The Relay"
Today: "The Finish"

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Finish Well"   Video  Karen Peck & New River

"One Day"  Video  Matt Redman

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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