Finishing Strong, Part 3

Good evening all. I hope everyone had a good week and enjoyed the great weather we had. In just a few weeks it will officially be Spring and I wonder what we should expect in the way of temperatures. It will probably end up very cold on Easter Sunday. But enough of the small talk.

Last week we left off with the idea that in order to “finish strong” one must first begin the race. I hope all of us have settled that matter and that we are in the race at this very moment. So with that in mind let’s take a look how we should run the race. Later we will look at “fighting the good fight” and ” keeping the faith” as Paul declared in his letter to Timothy.

One of the biggest factors that influences the results of a race is how well the runner comes out of the starting blocks. The runner must have his feet firmly planted against the staring blocks and he must be very alert and ready for the sound of the starting gun. In our spiritual race we must have a solid foundation to plant our feet on and we must always be aware of the “encumbrances that so easily beset us” and cause us to lose our focus. Well then, what is this solid foundation? It is God’s Word. It is through it that the gospel was shared which led us to the point of starting the race to begin with. It becomes the solid foundation that we should start from every day of our lives. The encumbrances are those things that tend to interrupt us along the way and cause us to take our eyes off the goal. We bring these on ourselves sometimes and sometimes it is Satan placing roadblocks in our path to make us detour off course. In either case, the way we start the race is critical to how we finish. 

Additionally, as we run our race it becomes even more important be to maintain our focus. It is so easy for us to be running a good, steady pace and then let our eyes glance at something off to the side. We think we are just going to take a quick look and before we know it we are off in the ditch. I know I find myself there much more often than I should. One of the results of getting in the ditch is that we can become stuck and we need someone to come along to help pull us out. I thank God that I’ve had several folks that have been able to do that for me in times past. A good lesson to learn here and then make it a goal for our life is to do everything we can to stay out of the ditch or at lease reduce the amount of times we are there and how long we stay. God help us all to do so!

So, as we have seen, to “finish strong” we must first start the race, we must start well with a firm foundation and as we run we must keep our focus on the task at hand. As we stay in God’s Word we will find that our ditch events become less frequent and the duration much shorter. Isn’t it amazing how His word is all we need when we place our total trust in Him?

Next week  we will discuss “finishing strong” as we “fight the good fight” and, mind you, we are in a fight. May God richly bless you until then.

David

 

Finishing Strong , Part 2

Well here it is Saturday again and another week has flown by. However, I’m thankful that I’m no longer having to work those strange hours. Everything seems to be getting back to normal except for the weather. The weather remains quite a mystery as to why it is so warm in the middle of February. The forecast for the coming week is more of the same. I’m not complaining because I can’t handle the cold like I used to. And I’m certainly not looking forward to when the temperatures may reverse and I’m guessing it will.

Becky and I just got back from the Frosty Inn in Russellville where we each had an old-fashion banana split. You know, the kind that comes in an boat-like container with vanilla ice cream, pineapple topping, cherry topping, chocolate syrup and a whole banana sliced in half lengthwise. And with real walnuts in a syrup mixture that is out of this world. Jealous yet? We go once or twice a year and indulge. Takes a while to get over it though.

Well, let’s get back to the topic from last week. I had mentioned that I had recently heard several friends make the statement that they want to “finish strong” and I began talking about what that means. I pointed out what Paul said in one of his letters to Timothy. He stated that he had fought the good fight, he had finished the race, he had kept the faith. This is an often quoted passage of scripture but I wonder if we really understands what it entails. So let’s take a closer look and set what we find.

First of all, the phrase “I have finished the race” makes it obvious that he started in a race somewhere along the line. As we all know, this happened when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus and from that point on he was involved in the race of his life. As Paul ran his race he encountered numerous trials along the way. These trials turned his race into an obstacle course which slowed him down at times but he never gave up, he never gave in, he just kept running.

From Paul’s witness and example we can derive that in order to finish the race, one must begin the race. Starting the race is certainly a prerequisite to finishing the race. So the first thing to be considered is this: Have we started in the race? Has there been a time in our life that, like Paul, we met Jesus on our Damascus Road? If we haven’t then there is no need to entertain the thought of finishing strong. Once we settle that, we can move on to the other questions of what it really means to finish strong. You can’t finish until you start. Have you started? ….more to come next week.

My prayer is that we all finish strong together!

David

Finishing Strong

Good evening to everyone. I trust all of you have had a great week and one of no insurmountable problems. It’s been somewhat lengthy for me however. I am actually writing this post from an electrical control room at the plant while I keep my eye on new equipment that we are trying to bring to a stable operating point. It’s almost been like my second home for the last two weeks. But I think we are beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel. At least I hope so.

The odd hours I have recently spent working during this frustrating time have been ones that I would normally have been either sleeping or enjoying time with my family. However, those hours have awarded me a lot of time to think and reflect on some things that I usually don’t allow much time for. And in the midst of all that reflection a somewhat serious and convicting question has caught my attention. I think this question has surfaced because of recent comments made by some folks that I have a lot confidence in. One of them is a very good friend and brother in Christ that I love and respect very much and I hold our relationship in high regard. The comment I am referring to is this: “I want to finish strong!” Mind you, I have heard this from several other friends on numerous occasions and now it is beginning to ring in my ears. Thus the question that has come to my mind is “What does it mean to finish strong?” Another one is “Do I really want to finish strong?” and then “If yes, what is my plan to do so?”

As I have pondered these questions I have come to realize that there are a few things that needs to be considered as I try to satisfy my desire to know the answers. For the first question “What does it mean to finish strong?” I think we can find the answer in Paul’s comments as he writes in his second letter to Timothy, his son in the ministry. Chapter 4, verse 7 reads something like this: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” In other words Paul is saying he didn’t quit, he never gave up, he didn’t let anyone or any circumstance steal from him the joy of his salvation. Paul left no room for failure or even compromise. He kept his eyes on the goal and his feet on solid ground. To finish strong is no little thing.

Now that we have at least a hint of understanding of what it means to finish strong, we can approach the subject with a little more caution. Next week we will consider a few more thoughts on the subject and try to make our way to the answers to the other questions. In the meantime maybe we should be asking ourselves if finishing strong is in our minds like it was Paul’s. It has certainly been on my mind for the past few weeks.

May God richly bless each of you!

David

A Lesson From Life

Good evening all. I apologize for the lateness of the hour. The time just got away from me and it was almost midnight before I knew it. It has been a long week at work and I haven’t recovered yet. I’ve discovered this week that I’m not cut out for the off-shift work for any length of time.

Becky and I had lunch with one of our grandsons this week at school because it was Grandparents Day. As most of you know, it is a big deal for the kids. What was really interesting about it was the number of grandparents that we knew. After several people had stopped at the table to exchange pleasantries my grandson asked me this question; “Papa Dave, how many people do you know?” My quick response was “When you’ve lived as long as I have you will know as many people as I do.”, and he was satisfied with that answer. Little did I realize that the conversation would stay with me for a while.

Later that day I began to think about the question he asked and several thoughts came to my mind. First of all is the fact that I have lived well past half of my expected life span and therefore I don’t have many years left in this world. It’s almost depressing because it seems like only yesterday that we were having lunch with one of our girls at that very same school without any thought that we would be sitting there with one of our grandchildren some years later.

As I pondered more over the incident, I also begin to think about how that I haven’t used the time God has given me as well as I should have and maybe to the extent He expects. Although I have made a conscious effort to keep my priorities in the right order there have been may times I have drifted off in the wrong direction. But thanks be to God, He has always brought something or someone into my life that He used to correct me and set me back on a proper path.

The other haunting thought was this; “What kind of impact have I had on all of those people my grandson believes I know?” I would hope it has been what it should be but I know that I have fallen short again in many instances. There have been times I didn’t encourage someone when I should have or I didn’t show compassion or I didn’t share God’s love or His gospel and so on and so on. But even with my failures God has been so good to me and continues to bless me with His love, mercy and grace.

So then, what have I learned from such a simple event in my life? First of all, life is much shorter than any of us realize. When looked at in comparison to how long this world has been in existence, it truly is just a vapor. Secondly, my priorities should be in the right order and that I should use my time wisely. In other words, the right priorities should be the priority. And last but not least, I should purpose and endeavor to have a positive impact and influence on those around me, especially my family. and friends. And the best way to do that is to let others see Jesus in me. May it be so!

Summary: Life is short, time is precious and others first.