My God, remember Tobiah and Sanballat, according to these their works, and the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who would have made me afraid. Nehemiah 6:14 (NKJV)
Good morning, and God bless you. My name is Michel Lankford. I believe that Jesus is the Christ the son of the living God and I've accepted him as my Lord and Savior. I have been privileged to worship and serve here at White River for better than four years. I thank you for your kind attention this morning.
Today we're not talking about starting well. Lots of people start a project but few people finish well. Living our life for Christ, and seeing our God-given mission through to its completion reminds me a lot of a marathon race. Thousands may start a marathon, comparatively few finish the race.
The start of the marathon looks impressive. You can see row after row of runners 6 to 10 abreast as each is trying to find their proper pace. At this point, none of those runners imagine themselves not performing well. Each desires to finish, some dream of winning. None imagine themselves quitting early, but it doesn't take long before the large group of runners begins to spread out into smaller packs, and as time goes by, fatigue sets in, the head starts throbbing, and muscles start cramping. It doesn't take too long before some of the runners are dropping out of the race.
The Christian life is a lot like a marathon, it's a long race and not a sprint. Just like marathon runners, many Christians start out well, but considerably fewer finish well. When we become born-again we all start out with the same equipment. We are convicted of our sin and we believe in God's grace by the same Holy Spirit. We are forgiven by the same sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, we are empowered by the same Holy Spirit, and the same resurrection. So, what makes the difference? We all started with the same equipment, so what was it that makes some able to see their race through to the end, while others fall by the wayside?
As I was seeking the Lord in prayer to answer the question, "How do we finish well?" I believe that the Lord revealed to me that there are only two questions that will determine whether we finish well.
First, how well did you train? Second, how well did you persevere? If you learn to train yourself well, and if you learn to persevere well, then you will certainly finish well.
.... On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness;
for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 1 Timothy 4:7b-8 (NASB)
Training well means that I work diligently to develop certain habits in my life:
1.) I read God's word at least six days a week. I seek to apply and obey God's word and precepts in my daily life and decisions (Matthew 7:24-27; James 1:22-23).
2.) I pray daily (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
3.) I attend church and worship services and small groups faithfully (Hebrews 10:25)
4.) I seek to discover how God has gifted me and to use those gifts to support the body of Christ.
5.) I Become Faithful in Tithing and Giving
6.) I humble myself with fasting and Prayer
7.) I diligently apply God's word and precepts to help me overcome my personal weaknesses and difficulties (e.g. I learn to forgive)
8.) I develop a habit of sharing my personal testimony and inviting people to come into Christ.
As I was growing up, dropping out of things became almost a habit. I'd start out in school full of positive desire and ambition. I'd have all my stuff organized weeks before school started and I was determined to make it. Year after year though, I experienced the same problem. Some accident or discouraging event would happen and I start dropping behind. I'd start turning assignments in late and then not at all. Soon a semester that started out full of potential and promise ended with discouragement and reproach. As a result, I've always been really good at training well, but persevering well was another story. Lack of perseverance is still something I work on overcoming consistently.
The idea of perseverance denotes the act of steadfastness, patiently persisting; to continue unswervingly and to adhere to firmly as we grow in our Christian faith. Perseverance is one of those qualities will need as we train for Christian excellence and as we develop the seventh habit I mentioned above. Of all the Christian habits perseverance is probably the most difficult to develop. When running a marathon, a runner will often come to the point of "hitting the wall." That's the point in the race when the runner is exhausted, every muscle seems to be sending pain signals through the brain, he is dry mouth and his every logical instinct is to quit.
There are times in the Christian life where we feel like we're hitting the wall too, it just looks a little bit different. In the Christian life hitting the wall can look like this:
· I've prayed and talk to God about my temper for years and nothing seems to change.
· I've prayed for years for God to change my spouse, I'm in an unhappy marriage. I need to get out.
· This would be a good time to fill in the blank, "I am discouraged by___." You can fill the blank in with anything the drags you down or makes you tempted to quit.
In the Christian life getting weary, past failures, General fears or fears of failure can discourage us or distract us from what God wants us to achieve. That's what they were trying to do the Nehemiah. His enemies were trying to discourage him with fear and cause him to disobey God. How we behave when we are tempted to quit will make all the difference between winning and losing. Today's simple message is this: what ever your struggle is today, what ever you are trying to overcome, please don't quit. If you've tried and failed before, then get up and start again. God wants to give you a fresh start. Commit your struggle to God. Ask Him to carry you for awhile, but don't you quit. Don't give up! Keep on training yourself for godliness, and keep on learning to persevere.
So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9 (NRSV)