“Only one life ’twill soon be past
Only what’s done for Christ will last” Charles Studd
Dr. J. Robert Clinton, professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, has made a life mission of studying leadership in the Bible. By Clinton’s estimate, Scripture records the lives and activities of approximately 1,000 people who would be identified as leaders. These included Old Testament patriarchs, military leaders, priests and a host of New Testament figures who led others toward the truth of the gospel. A very small fraction of these leaders — only about 50 — provided sufficient information to determine whether they “finished well” or not. By Clinton’s estimate, only 30% of leaders in the Bible finished well. A whopping 70% fell short God’s best intentions for their lives, many in fairly dramatic ways (think Solomon, Eli, or Ahab)
So how does a person finish the race of faith well?
Clearly, a single-minded and wholehearted commitment to the Kingdom of God is essential. But how sustainable is this commitment? Is it realistic that we will put Christ first throughout all of our days? When sufferings, our old nature, and various trials and temptations surface, will we have the strength to go the distance with the Lord? How does one continue to “fight the good fight”over the long haul? Consider this truth:
God’s amazing grace that saves us will also sustain us
Again, we are not talking about perfection but about the direction of our lives. People like Abraham, Joshua, Daniel, Paul, and Peter were not perfect but trusted deeply in the living God and put Him above all else. They finished strong because they sought to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:1). The grace that saved them was the same grace that sustained them on the last mile of their marathon. Consider four foundational ways you can be strong in the grace that is in Jesus.
- Be clear about and stand firm in the gospel of God’s grace. — The simple truth that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone has and will continue to come under attack for every follower of Jesus. We are to be clear about what grace really is and build a worshipful awareness of it into our daily lives (see Grace, Part One of Anchored)
- Be clear about who you are in Christ. — When you first trusted in Jesus Christ, God the Father ushered you in to a new relationship with Himself. He now sees you through the “lens of Jesus Christ” meaning that Christ’s perfect track record is now your track record. Your identity is completely new (2 Corinthians 5:17), you have been born again to new life (John 3:5-8), and blessed beyond measure. Paul said it this way, “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.” Ephesians 1:3 Living in your true identity as God’s child, as a friend of Christ, as one who is cleansed, empowered, and filled with the Holy Spirit are game changing truths that will strengthen you for every step of the journey.
- Avoid appeals to become godly through legalism. — At the heart of all religion (outside of Christianity) is the attempt to make ourselves “right” and acceptable to whatever or whoever we must ultimately give an account. The problem is that each of these belief systems fails to deal with the brokenness of the human heart and with forgiveness, which is our greatest need. Godliness comes, in part, by preaching the gospel of Jesus to our own hearts every day. Through confession of sins, repentance, and actively trusting the Holy Spirit to be your guide, you will avoid legalistic tendencies. It’s also crucial to remember that grace not only saves you from legalism but also from the opposite extreme — the false belief that God’s grace allows you to tolerate sin (See Romans 6:1-11).
4. Be weak in yourself, but strong in Christ’s sufficiency. Tucked within Paul’s exhortation to “Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” is also the idea that you must recognize your own weakness in order to depend completely upon God’s strength. God told Paul,
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Paul then says, “when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9, 10
Getting in the habit of recognizing your weaknesses, while simultaneously drawing upon God’s strength, will lead you to a place of liberating humility and will empower you to stay consistent in your pursuit of God’s Kingdom.
The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” 2 Chronicles 16:9
All four of these are Adapted from Steven Cole’s excellent article, Strong in Grace.
Question 1 Think of believers in Jesus Christ that you know. Are any nearing the end of their race? What do you see in their lives that leads you to believe they want to “finish well”?
Question 2 Finishing well is God’s desire for all of Jesus’ followers. God’s amazing grace that saves us will also sustain us as we seek to put Christ first. What truth about God’s sustaining grace spoke most to you in this reading? Share.