Date: January 29, 2019 (Training)
Bible Text: | Betty Swann
Series: Pillar Eight
Are you growing in the Lord? Can you tell that God is challenging you through these lessons? I can tell He is challenging me. I do not teach things that I have not either lived myself or I go to it right after I teach the lesson and God is helping me prepare ahead of time. I do not ever do anything just blind. I listen, I hear, I say “What do you want?” I have kept all of my teachings for 35 years and I have them. I have them on my computer; I have them in hard copy. I have almost 500 of them. Everyone has at least one gift from the Lord. Some of you have many. Mine gift is teaching and I love to do it. I love to share with you. I love to try it myself, and then I love to tell what God has done. Jesus is amazing. He is so real. He loves you.
I am talking to you from America; I am talking to you from Texas so “Howdy”. Life is wonderful. It is meant to be lived with gusto, with joy and with enthusiasm, even through the hard things. God wants you to finish strong. What did the apostle Paul say? “I have fought a good fight, I have stayed to the course, I have finished the race, and now there is laid up for me a crown.” That is what you want. There is a special reward in heaven for people who are overcomers. Does that mean that you have to have a big ministry or you have to do a big thing for God? No, it does not even mention that. It just mentions overcomers. You have overcome something that was hard. Some of you listening today have overcome addictions. They had you by the throat. You did not stand a chance. You were going down, but you said “No, God!” and you cried out to God and He helped you and delivered you. Then you said, “I am never going back. God help me. I am never going back.” Even when the temptation comes, you say, “No. I am out and I am staying out. Praise God.” You can finish strong. You do not have to live a life of perfection in order to finish strong. Some people have made really bad mistakes and still they repented and turned back to God. He said “I love you. I am still going to do My plan for your life and you are going to finish strong.” That is what the lesson is about today. It is about finishing strong.
In 1945 there were three men who were extraordinary. They were gifted preachers. Everyone was talking about them. One was named Chuck, one was named Braun, and one was named Billy. Everyone talked about Chuck. He could communicate God in such a powerful and anointed way. Braun could bring in great crowds. People said he was the most gifted that they had seen in centuries. The man named Billy did the same thing. They all did great jobs for God. Years later, two of them were not even in the ministry. Chuck left the ministry. He decided to become a commentator on radio and in the newspaper. He said, “I don’t even believe in Christianity anymore like I always hear about. I don’t do it that way anymore. I don’t believe in orthodox Christianity.” Braun ended up broke, selling used cars. There was nothing wrong with selling used cars but he had gone from being a powerfully gifted preacher touching thousands of lives. He died an alcoholic living in a rundown motel. The third was Billy Graham. He is still going at 85 years of age. He has to sit in a chair like a wheelchair. I know his son has said “My dad can be shaking and trembling just from his disease. When he stands up in the pulpit, something comes over him and he is anointed by God. Every word is powerful.” He finished strong. He has not even finished yet, but he is finishing strong and he will continue to. The other two are gone.
What can we learn that helps us finish strong? I want to finish strong, don’t you? I do not want to work this hard and then wash out at the end. I do not want to have something come into my life and it waylays me and I am gone. “What happened to Betty?” “Well, she isn’t serving the Lord anymore.” I do not want that to happen. I pray for God to strengthen me. Something I do is pray “Lord strengthen my strong points and strengthen my weak points. Tell me what I need to do. I don’t care if I am embarrassed and I don’t care if it is hard. I do not care, Lord. I want to serve You. When you come, I want to be there and I want to have a smile on my face and Jesus on my lips. I want to be telling people about you.”
Look at Hebrews 1 and 2. It will tell you the main thing you have to do to ensure that when everything is said and done, and the dust settles, you are still standing. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by a great crowd of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles us.” The first thing is everything that hinders. The second thing is the sin that so easily entangles. The third thing is “and let us run with perseverance the race that has been marked out for us.” God tells you, and then He is going to give you a fourth thing. I want to go over these three first because they are very important. Throw off everything that hinders you. Do you know what hinders you? There are things in your life that slow you down. Maybe it is bad friends or maybe friends that do not really love God. They are not serious about God. They are not even serious about life. Throw off those things, or situations or places that hinder you. The second thing it says to do is throw off the sin that so easily besets you. What is that? We all have them. It is that sin that suddenly you are doing it, and then you are doing it again. You might think, “I’m not going to do that again,” and the next thing you know you are doing it again. Maybe it is procrastination or maybe anger. It can be anything, but it is a sin. How do you know it is a sin? The Bible says, “This is a sin.” God calls a sin a sin and you can, too. It is that one that easily entangles you. What does that mean? The devil does not have to try very hard to get you to do it. Just a little bit and there you go. Then, run with perseverance. I once heard a man say “You know what the real secret to success in anything is? It is persistence and perseverance. I act in commercials on television sometimes and I have for a long time. One night a man came from Los Angeles. He was going to teach us how to be successful in commercials. He said, “Look at me. Do you recognize me? I make $100,000 a year doing commercials. Do you recognize me?” He did not look like anyone I knew. He said, “Do you know why you do not recognize me? I am what is called the average Joe. I don’t really stand out. There is nothing you would notice about me like my height, physique or eyes. I am just an average looking guy. Why have I made so much money in an industry that very few people make money in? I can tell you why. I found where my niche was. I worked in it, kept on and kept on did not give up.” He said, “It is not talent. Some of the most talented people never make it as actors. Some that are not as talented do make it.” Why do they make it? Perseverance. It is the same in any profession. It is the same in sports. It is the same in getting a college degree. It is the same in finishing strong in Jesus. That is why God put that verse in there saying, “Let go of the sin that is holding you back. Let go of the hindering things. Run with perseverance the race that has been marked out for you.”
There is one final thing that God says to do. He says, “Fix your eyes on Jesus.” (Look at me. Am I fixing my eyes on Jesus? No, I am not. I am looking around at the world, looking around at what is going on, watching television too much, doing other things.) God says, “Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith.” Then it says such a powerful thing about Jesus, “Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross.” He despised the shame of it but He also scorned it. He hated it but He put up with it. Why? Because the Bible says, “and He sat down at the right hand of God.” He finished the race. If He had not finished the race, you and I would not have a chance. For one thing, He said “I have to go away so the Holy Spirit can come.” I cannot wait to be actually in the presence of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I do not know how we are going to see them, but it is all going to work. I just want to say, “Thank you Holy Spirit for sticking by me. Thank you for helping me. Thank you for teaching me. Thank you for correcting me. Thank you for guiding me. I want to be like Jesus. I want to finish the race.” If you study how He did it, you can see that there were plenty of things that happened that could have stopped Jesus. Right off the bat, His birth could have stopped Him. If He had not had parents that listened to God and obeyed, He would be dead. It never would have happened. Now He is there.
You may remember a time in your life that Satan really tried to get a big hold of you. It may have been a long time ago, so you think you are probably okay now. But Satan is going to be after you until the day you die. The more you do for God, the more He is going to be after you. You might think, “I’m not going to do anything for God. I don’t need the devil on my back. I have enough problems.” It is not like that. The more you do for God, the more power He gives you. The more you know Him the stronger you become. You are built up more than ever. You become a strong warrior. If we say, “I am going to run and hide. I don’t want the devil bothering me,” that would be like a soldier who runs and hides because he doesn’t want to fight. That is the whole point of it. You are supposed to fight. You are supposed to get strong. You are supposed to finish strong.
Is there anyone in the Bible that did not finish strong and you have never thought about it? Is there anyone in the Bible that went part of the way and then just kind of finished weak? Yes, there is. Is there anyone that finished strong? Lots of ordinary people, outstanding people that you hear about. If they can do it we can do it. Who was someone who got cut off early and did not finish? Some people were taken out of leadership positions through no fault of their own. They still finished strong but got cut off early. An example of that would be John the Baptist. His life ended so early but he still finished strong. Who did not finish strong? Absalom is one. Do you know who Absalom is? He was David’s son. He was a spoiled brat. He was determined to get his father’s kingdom. He had a terrible end. He was so beautiful. He had long, beautiful hair, and everyone was always saying how handsome he was. He did a terrible thing. He slept with his father’s wives where everyone knew he was doing it. Besides defilement of himself, he defiled his father’s name. He took off running on a donkey and got his hair caught in a tree, and he was killed.
James, the brother of Jesus, died early. The book of James was written by Jesus’ brother. It is pretty unusual because in the beginning His brothers did not believe in Him. That is something that might make you say “I am tired of this. It is not worth this. My whole family is against me.” Instead, the brother of Jesus that was named James became so convinced that Jesus was the Messiah after the resurrection that he became one of Jesus’ strongest supporters. He was one of the leaders of the early church and he wrote the book of James. The sad thing is he was killed because of his faith. Remember, John the Baptist was beheaded. James was killed, also, early in life, but he still made an impact. How long you live is not what I am talking about. I am not talking about “If you live until you are 80, that counts for finishing strong.” These are people that were cut off early but they finished strong. You can do it, too.
There are some that all you can say about them is they finished poorly. The greatest example I can think of is Saul. Samuel was there to anoint Saul. He was a handsome man, taller than everyone else. He started out okay but he cared too much about what people thought. Why should we care that much about what people think? They are going to talk about you today; tomorrow they are going to talk about someone else. The next day they will be talking about someone else. Really, they are only thinking about themselves. Why be like? Saul had a chance. He could have done a good job. He even prophesied at times. He wasted his opportunity. It says in Proverbs “What a shame to see a man sleep away his day of opportunity.” That is Saul.
Someone else that finished poorly was Solomon. Did you know that? We talk about how wise he was and what wise decisions he made. The Bible says in I Kings 11:3 “And his wives turned his heart away from God.” It can happen. God said “Don’t intermingle with those other nations.” They did and the next thing you know Solomon was starting to worship their idols. He finished poorly, too.
Who finished so-so? I do not know if you would say King David or not because most of his exploits were early in his life. He killed the bear and the lion and Goliath. He honored Saul even when it was hard to do it and God honored him. He had won great and mighty battles. He was a great warrior. He was a good king. He was a man after God’s own heart. However, at the end of his life, he really did not discipline his children well and they were a big disappointment to him. The Bible says he never did discipline them. He went down as a great name to all of us, but his children did not. I told you what happened to Absalom. Hezekiah was like that. He started out great. Jehoshaphat was like that, too. The Battle is Not Yours But God’s, I love that. Even he at the end still did not finish strong. It does not matter if you are a king or a pauper. You can finish strong, you can finish so-so, or you can finish just not well at all.
Who finished strong? Those are the ones we want to know about because they are our example. They are the ones we can say, “Look what they went through. They did it. I can do it, too.” Who is it besides Jesus? Who were the people at the end of their lives were just as strong in the Lord or stronger? The Lord does not want you to end your life just going “Whew, I made it. Thank goodness I made it.” He does not want you to be like that. That does not bring Him glory. He wants you to be strong. I heard Kenneth Hagen say “I will tell you, I don’t want to die. But if I do and when I do; I want to just sit down in an easy chair, lean back and say let her rip, Lord, and be gone.” He just about did that. He was strong to the end.
Who else was? Abraham was. Job was, and he went through some hard stuff. Think about Joseph. Some of the mistakes or the situations that occurred that could have stopped him from finishing strong were of his own making. His big mouth was a problem, for one thing, and his arrogance and pride early in life were also problems. Joshua was another who finished strong. He had hard things and he had fear. Anytime you read the book of Joshua, there is a lot in there about being strong and not being afraid. “Be strong, don’t be afraid. Be courageous, I am going to help you.” He obviously had to hear that because God kept saying it to him. He finished strong in a wonderful way. Caleb did, too. Caleb was an old man, and he said “Lord give me the hard land. Let me have some more challenges. I can do it.” What a great thing. I admire people that are in their 80s or 90s and are going strong. Their attitude is “I am going to keep on serving the Lord. I love it and I am going to keep on doing it.” My mother-in-law is like that. I have a step-mother who has been with me for 30 years. She is strong. She walks in a walker, sometimes she is in a wheelchair, but she is strong. She watches those television preachers. I know some of you older people watch television preachers and I hope you pray for them. I hope you pray for me, too.
Another that finished strong was Deborah. Ruth is another one. She lost her husband and was a widow at an early age. She was not a believer; she was a Moabitess. She became a believer, married a good man and they served God. They had a grandchild named King David. Others were Rahab the harlot and Elijah. Elijah just was gone. What about Enoch? That is a great story. Enoch walked with God and he was no more. We do not even know how he died. One day he was not there. Maybe God said “Enoch, you walk so closely with me on earth. Come home today.” Maybe that is what happened. Jeremiah’s was hard, very hard. Daniel had to serve the Lord in another country, not even where his people were, and he did it. How about Dorcas? She was an insignificant person in terms of not being like the apostle Paul. When she died, Peter went in and they said “Let us show you what she did. She made me this dress, she made me this. She sewed this. She did that. She is such a wonderful woman.” Of course, she had a miracle, but even at that point she was finishing strong. That is the way we want to be. Someone that did not even get a good start was Zipporah. She was Moses’ wife. She did not support her husband and I am sure she is sorry now.
What is going to help you? Pray for endurance. What is endurance? It is the strength to finish, the strength to do it. God will give you endurance. It is a character quality and you have to develop it. It is not going to be like God goes “Ping, you have endurance.” It does not work that way. You get put in situation after situation after situation, but God does not give you something that you cannot handle. It might be hard. It might stretch you to the max, but it will prepare you for the next time. The next will be harder than that, and the one after will be even harder. You get stronger and stronger. Why is that a wise way to do things if you are God? It is how you get your big muscles. For you guys that work out, thing about it. You add a little more weight, add a little more weight, and it gets harder and harder. You are building some muscles and getting some endurance. You can lift a lot of reps. It is amazing. That is how God does it. You want to be able to say that.
My husband says, “Every godly quality you want in life lies on the other side of discipline.” There is no way to get around it. We are all going to have to be disciplined. We are all going to have to grow. We are all going to have to put up with what you have to. Talent is a gift but these other things are by choice and determination. You can finish strong. Ask Jesus to give you the power to do it and go with God to the very end.
QUIET TIME QUESTIONS
1. Who is the main person in this lesson?
2. Briefly describe what they did for God.
3. What scripture about this person is meaningful to you and why?
4. In what ways do you find yourself relating to this person or their experience?
5. How does this lesson influence your thoughts about God or the way you walk out your beliefs?
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Topics: People of the Bible Speak