Finish Line Focus
Have you led a perfect life? If you say yes, obviously you just blew it because you lied. Only One has led such a life. Personally, I cringe at some of the things I’ve done. Like the time I…on second thought, none of your business. The point is, we all have regrets and focusing on those things gets us nowhere. Confession, repentance, learning and growing with the help of God’s Spirit through Christ are essential. Press on and keep the finish line in mind.
One thing that confirms the veracity—the believability—of the scriptural narratives is the fact that the “heroes” are portrayed as imperfect. With the exception of Jesus, they do sinful, dumb, goofy, painful, sometimes deadly, types of things to which we can all relate. This helps to put the focus on the real Hero of every victorious story and that is God. He is at work in these people’s lives, changing them and, to the degree they submit to Him, molding them into people who finish well, reflecting His glory.
The Apostle Paul is a quintessential example. As Saul of Tarsus, a legalistic Pharisee, he was out for the blood of Christians. Saul was driven by a religious agenda that stood in stark contrast to the grace of God and a philosophical view that even allowed this pious Jew to team up with the pagan Roman authorities to pursue his belief that Christians must be stopped. Despite having been a murderous enemy of Jesus, the converted Paul later proclaimed, “…forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).
The goal, the finish line, is what mattered for Paul. The most self-destructive thing he could have done would have been to rehearse all of his wrongs as an enemy of Christ. Now he lived his life in order to be able to say at the end, as he did, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). God had put him on a new course, a race he had run with faith in Jesus. He was not focused on this world, but on a vision of the next, wanting as many as possible to also live that way. He finished well.
We hear too often of those who don’t finish well. Some are prominent figures in contemporary Christianity, pastors of large ministries. The effect of such public failures is often not only to besmirch the name of Christ, but to cause many who sadly put their faith in a man to reject the Church. Of course, there is room for repentance, forgiveness and restoration to fellowship, but so much damage is done. Some subjects of such stories don’t repent and make things worse. In some cases they leave the faith altogether.
I’m reminded of Charles Templeton. When Billy Graham was getting his start as an evangelist, Templeton and Graham were friends. They were both preachers of the Gospel. Templeton was considered the higher quality orator, better looking and generally a superior talent to Billy Graham. At some point, he unfortunately left the faith, going on to become an atheist. Templeton had success as a broadcaster and author. He died in 2001 at the age of 86, after publishing his book, Farewell to God. What a sad commentary on a life that started with such promise!
When Billy Graham entered into the Lord’s presence at the age of 99, like Paul, he finished well. He had made a decision despite pressure from his friend Charles Templeton, the rise of secular humanism, scientific naturalism and a culture that was increasingly opposed to the truth of Christ, instead to “…to take the Word of God by faith and preach the Gospel without reservation.” That’s the way I remember the quote on a plaque near Lake Mears at Forest Home summarizing his commitment after wrestling with his faith many years ago. It was a commitment that surely helped him finish well.
When you consider those in Hebrews 11 who triumphed through faith, it was God’s promises, His vision of a preferred future and eternity centered on and provided by Him through Jesus Christ that no doubt compelled them to finish the life courses God gave them. They, like Paul, like Billy Graham and others who have been compelled by God’s vision, see life through supernatural, not just natural eyes. They walked by faith and finished well. Will you?
“…show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end…” —Hebrews 6:11