from JO’s sermon tonight:
it doesn’t take a lot of effort to start things: a diet, school, a family. starting is easy; finishing is what can be difficult. any young lady can have a baby, but it takes a mother to really raise that child. any two people can get married, but it takes commitment to stick with it for the long haul. anyone can have a dream, but it takes determination, perseverance, a made-up mind, to see it come to pass. the question is not will you start, but will you finish? will you finish the diet, school, raising your children? too many people start off good, they have big dreams, they’re excited about their future, but along the way they have some setbacks, it’s taking longer than they thought, somebody didn’t do what they said; over time, they get discouraged, they think, “what’s the use? it’s never going to work out,” but God is called the author and finisher of our faith. He’s not only giving you the grace to start, He’s giving you the grace to finish.
when you’re tempted to get discouraged, give up on a dream, relationship, project, you have to remind yourself, “I was not created to give up, quit, I was created to finish. you’ve got to shake off the discouragement, self-pity, what somebody said. if you will keep moving forward in faith, honoring God, you will come into a strength that you didn’t have before, a force pushing you forward; that’s finishing grace, that’s God breathing in your direction, helping you to become who He created you to be. this grace is available, but you have to tap into it; it’s not going to do us any good if we sit around in self-pity thinking about how difficult it is, what didn’t work out, “my college professor, he’s so hard, I’ll never pass his course”: no, you have the grace to finish. quit talking defeat, start talking victory; “I can do all things through Christ. I’m full of wisdom, talent, creativity. I will pass this course.”
when you do that, finishing grace will help you do what you could not do on your own. even in simple things: you start cleaning your house, 5 minutes later, “I don’t feel like doing this, I am so tired, this is so boring.” no, turn it around; “I am strong in the Lord, full of energy, healthy, this is no match for me.” if you’ll tap into this finishing grace, you’ll vacuum your house like you’re on a mission from God. maybe you’re tempted to give up on a dream, things haven’t turned out the way you planned; it was going fine at first, but then you had some obstacles, and you think, “it just wasn’t meant to be.” here’s what I’ve learned; the enemy doesn’t try to stop you from starting, he’s seen a lot of people start, that doesn’t bother him, but when you have a made-up mind, and you keep pushing forward, doing the right thing, taking new ground, when he sees you getting closer, he’ll work overtime to try to keep you from finishing.
when you have setbacks, disappointments, people coming against you, a negative medical report, don’t get discouraged; that’s a sign that you’re moving toward your finish line. he was fine when you got started, he was fine when you were way back, no big deal, but when you began to make progress, you got his attention; that’s when he threw out some obstacles and challenges. where you confused him is he thought you would give up after the first few difficulties. he thought you’d get discouraged when that friend turned on you, when you lost that client, when your child got in trouble, but instead, you kept moving forward, thanking God that He’s in control, fighting your battles, that no weapon formed against you will prosper. what were you doing? tapping into finishing grace. when you should’ve gotten weaker, you got stronger.
when you should’ve been depressed, you had a smile on your face. when you should’ve been complaining, you had a song of praise. instead of talking about how big the problem was, you were always talking about how big your God is. when you should’ve gone under, God caused you to go over. when you didn’t see a way, He made a way. when people came against you, he fought your battles, and you came out better than you were before. you may be up against challenges right now; it’s because you’re moving forward, making progress. keep reminding yourself; He’s the author and finisher of your faith. God helped you to get started, that’s great, but there’s something more important; He’s going to help you to finish. He didn’t bring you this far to leave you.
Philippians 1:6 (WYC)
6 trusting this same thing, that he that began in you a good work, shall perform it till into the day of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1:6 (CEV)
6 God is the one who began this good work in you, and I am certain that he won’t stop before it is complete on the day that Christ Jesus returns.
one translation says:
Philippians 1:6 (MSG)
3 the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.
not a defeated finish, where you barely make it, beat up, broke, no, you are coming to a flourishing finish, a finish more rewarding than you ever imagined. this is what happened to a man is the scripture, Joseph. as a teenager, God gave him a dream that one day he would rule a nation. his father, Jacob, loved him very much. everything started off great for Joseph: he had a big dream, supportive family, life was good. but along the way, things started to go wrong. his brothers, who loved him very much at one time, this was their little brother Joseph, they were always taking up for him, making sure nobody harmed him, but these same brothers turned on him; they were jealous, and they threw Joseph into a pit, and left him there to die. they eventually changed their minds, and sold him into slavery, to a man named Potiphar.
Genesis 37:27 (NIV)
27 Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed.
it looked like his dream was done: betrayed by his family, a slave in a foreign country. if that wasn’t bad enough, they put him in prison for 13 years for something that he didn’t do. surely Joseph was depressed, angry, bitter, upset; nothing had turned out right. no, Joseph understood this principle; he knew he had the grace, not only to start, but to finish what God put in his heart. he knew that the enemy wouldn’t be fighting him if he wasn’t heading toward his destiny, so he stayed in faith; he kept doing the right thing when the wrong thing was happening, not working unto people, but working onto God. one day the Pharaoh, the leader of the nation, had a dream that he didn’t understand; Joseph was able to interpret the dream. Pharaoh was so impressed with Joseph that he brought him out of prison and put him in charge of the whole nation. Joseph’s dream came to pass. God has put something on you that will override people being against you; it will override bad breaks, injustice. you have the grace, not to just start, you have something even more powerful, the grace to finish.
when you have an attitude like Joseph, you cannot stay defeated; life may push you down, but God will push you back up. people may do you wrong, but God will be your vindicator. situations may look impossible, but God can do the impossible. when you have finishing grace, all of the forces of darkness cannot stop you. sure, you may have some setbacks, bad breaks, injustice, but don’t worry, it’s only temporary. it’s just a detour on the way to your destiny. that’s a sign that you are moving towards your finish line. the enemy doesn’t fight people that are going the wrong way; people that are off course, discouraged, distracted, bitter, angry, that’s where he wants you. he comes against people that are headed toward the fullness of their destiny, taking new ground, people like you that are coming into a flourishing finish. our attitude should be, “I have a made-up mind. I’m going to keep moving forward in spite of the bad break, loss, negative report, critics. my destiny is too great, my assignment too important, to get discouraged, distracted, bitter, I’m not going to become half, 3/4, 90%, I’m going to become all that God’s created me to be.”
when you’re tempted to get discouraged and settle, it’s because you’re close to your breakthrough, seeing the problem turn around, meeting the right person. pharaoh is about to call you, so to speak. the good break, healing, contract is on the way. you’ve got to tap into this finishing grace. you’ve come too far to stop now, you’ve believed too long, worked too hard, invested too much. it may be difficult, negative voices may be telling you, “it’s never going to work out, forget it, just settle where you are”; no, don’t believe those lies, you are close to your destiny. when the going gets tough, you have to dig your heels in and say, “I am in it to win it. I am not moved by this opposition, by what I see, by what I feel, I’m moved by what I know, and I know this; I have the grace to finish. God began a good work in me, and He’s going to complete it. so I’m going to keep honoring God, being good to people, being my best.” every day you do that, you are passing the test; you are one day closer to coming into your finish line. the scripture says:
Deuteronomy 33:25 (ESV)
25 … as your days, so shall your strength be.
this means that your strength will always be equivalent to what you need. if you were to get a negative medical report, you’re going to have the strength to deal with it. you’re not going to fall apart, “I can’t believe this is happening,” no, your strength will always match what you’re up against.
Psalm 46:1 (ESV)
46 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
in the difficulties of life, if you will get quiet, turn off the negative voices, you will feel a peace that passes understanding. you should be falling apart, but there’s grace for every season. sometimes in life, we think, “how am I going to make it up that steep hill? I’ve gotten this far, but how am I going to deal with this illness, raise this difficult child, I went through a loss, I don’t think I can go on.” no, God has some strength in reserve for you. when you hit a tough time, don’t worry, there are two more cylinders about to kick in, a strength you haven’t tapped into; you’re going to feel a force pushing you forward, taking you where you could not go on your own. that’s finishing grace. the closer you get to your destiny, the tougher the battles become. the higher you go up the mountain, the more God promotes you, the steeper the hill is: the critics will come out of the woodwork, people may not celebrate you, unexpected challenges, a health issue, a business slows down, you lose a loved one. it’s easy to think, “I was doing so good, if I just wouldn’t have had this bad break, now I’ve got this steep hill to go up.”
no, that challenge is a sign that you are close to your destiny. the same God that gave you a place to start is the same God that’s going to help you finish. He knows exactly where your path is leading. nothing you’re facing is a surprise to Him. He knows every hill, disappointment, setback. He said that His grace is sufficient. you will never come to a hill where you don’t have the strength to climb it. you may face some challenges, where you think, “I don’t know how I’m going to make it up this”; the reason you think that way is that you haven’t needed that extra strength yet. you have not felt the full force of finishing grace. when it kicks in, it’s going to propel you forward; you’re going to climb mountains that you thought were way too steep. you’re going to overcome obstacles that look insurmountable, accomplish dreams that you thought were impossible. how could you do this? finishing grace. you tapped into strength in reserve.
this is what the apostle Paul did in the scripture. he faced some huge hills; it didn’t look like he could fulfill his destiny. he was doing the right thing, sharing the good news, helping other people, when he was arrested and put in prison. the closer he got to his destiny, the more obstacles he faced. he was alone, in a dungeon, on death row. it looked like God had forgotten about him, but Paul wasn’t defeated, depressed, feeling sorry for himself; even though he was in chains, they couldn’t stop what God wanted him to do. since Paul couldn’t go out and speak publicly, he thought, “no problem, I’ll start writing.” he wrote book after book: here’s a letter to the Ephesians, the Colossians, the Romans, the Corinthians. he wrote over half of the New Testament, much of it from a prison cell. they thought they were stopping him, but they were doing just the opposite, causing his voice to become amplified. here we are, some 2000 years later, still feeling Paul’s influence. what they meant for harm, God used for good. people may try to stop you, but finishing grace will get you to where you’re supposed to be. they may push you down, but finishing grace will lift you right back up.
they may try to discredit, belittle, leave you out; don’t get upset, they are a part of the plan to get you to your destiny. God will use them to propel you forward. as long as you stay in faith, and keep honoring God, you will accomplish your assignment. He is the author and finisher of your faith. quit focusing on who’s against you, how steep the hill is, how impossible it looks; God has the final say. He brought Joseph out of prison, Paul stayed in prison, but they both fulfilled their destinies. if God doesn’t turn it around the way you thought, He may do like he did with Paul, and cause you to have great influence right in the midst of your enemies. in the midst of those difficulties, you can shine, be a bright light, have God’s favor. no person can stand against our God. no bad break can keep you from your destiny. God has given you finishing grace; He’s going to get you to where you’re supposed to be. when Paul came to the end of his life, he said:
2 Timothy 4:7 (KJV)
7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course
one place says:
Acts 20:24 (AMP)
24 But none of these things move me; neither do I esteem my life dear to myself, if only I may finish my course with joy
notice, he didn’t finish defeated, depressed, sour, he finished with a smile on his face, a spring in his step, a song in his heart. that’s what it means to have a flourishing finish. we all have things come against us. it’s easy to lose our passion and drag through life, discouraged, negative, bitter, but there is no victory if you finish your course that way. you have to make up your mind; “I’m not only going to finish my course, I’m going to finish it with joy, a good attitude, not complaining, but with a song of praise, not thinking about what I don’t have, but thanking God for what I do have, not looking at what’s wrong in my life, but thanking God for what’s right in my life.” when you tap into finishing grace, you won’t drag through the day, you’ll enjoy the day. in the race of life, if you’re going to finish your course with joy, you’ve got to guard your fire, you can’t let your flame go out. too many people have lost their passion. at one time, they were passionate about their dreams, but they had some setbacks, and now they’ve lost their zeal. if that’s you, remember, God is not done with you; you have not seen your best days. you’ve got to shake off the blahs, the discouragement; there is a flame that is still alive on the inside of you. the scripture talks about:
2 Timothy 1:6 (NIV)
6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God
it’s not enough to just finish; you’ve got to finish your course with your fire still burning. the scripture talks about how the saints of old died in faith:
Hebrews 11:4-28 (NIV)
4 By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.
5 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death…
7 By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.
8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country…
13 All these people were still living by faith when they died…
17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice…
20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.
21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.
22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.
23 By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.
24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter… 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.
we’re all going to die one day. you have to make a decision; are you going to die in faith, or are you going to die negative, bitter, complaining, “I can’t believe this happened.” make up your mind that you’re going to die full of joy, with your fire still burning. God didn’t breathe his life into you, crown you with favor, put seeds of greatness on the inside, to start the race; He sent you to finish it. The scripture talks about:
Ecclesiastes 9:11 (NIV)
11 … The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong,
nor does food come to the wise
or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned;
but time and chance happen to them all.
you don’t have to finish first, you’re not competing with anybody else, just finish your course. you weren’t created to give up, to quit; we can all find a reason to drop out of the race, some kind of excuse, but you have to dig your heels in and say, “I am determined to finish my course.” if you will tap into this finishing grace, you’ll have a strength that you didn’t have, you will finish your course with joy, complete your assignment, and become everything God created you to be.