One of my favorite professors during my time at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas was Dr. Bill Tolar. Dr. Tolar was an incredible scholar, preacher, and friend. I believe one of the reasons I connected with him so easily was due to the fact that he had one of the same challenges I face in my verbal communication. If not careful we could speak extremely fast. A classmate of mine in a Biblical Backgrounds course once stated that Dr. Tolar spoke so fast that if he dropped his pencil he would miss 500 years.
Dr. Tolar had a mantra that he communicated to his students at the beginning of every Semester, and this mantra has become one that I try to apply in my ministry. He would say, “Start with a Good Finish.” He wanted his students to finish the semester with as much excitement and enthusiasm as they had when the semester began. He wanted his students to know that it wasn’t how they started that mattered, but how they finished. He wanted us to finish well.
I’m saddened and shocked, like many of you these last few weeks, by the flood of people of high influence and stature who are not finishing well. Broadcasters, directors, athletes, musicians, members of the clergy, school teachers, civic leaders, moms and dads who began strong, excelled exponentially, and now due to poor decisions, are not finishing well. They are not “starting with a good finish.”
Each one of us are sinners learning to live in the realm of God’s grace and forgiveness. I continue to be humbled with the fact that in the midst of my imperfections and weaknesses, God still has a plan for me. With this knowledge, Satan is going to do everything he can to squander this plan and place things in my life and in the life of every believer to keep us from accomplishing His will. Satan’s ultimate goal is to keep God’s people from finishing well.
There is not one person reading this blog today, including me, who is exempt from not finishing well. You may have this attitude in your heart that says “I would never do that” or “I can’t believe they did that.” The truth of the matter is that each person who does not finish well has characteristics in common that are spiritual in nature leading to their downward slide.
We all desire to finish well. The struggles we face have been encountered in scripture. Therefore, God’s Word can be used as a source of encouragement and strength as we seek to finish well our journey on earth. His Word addresses danger points in our personal lives that could be leading to moral decline. He gives us everything we need to finish well.
It is God’s desire that we finish the great work He has ignited within our hearts. Philippians 1:6 is one of my favorite passages in the New Testament. It says, For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Luke’s gospel addresses this topic when he speaks of the foundation in which we should build our lives upon:
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’”
Here are three reminders for us as we witness the implosion of these visible figures.
I. Believers Who Finish Well See Spiritual Growth as a Necessity of Life.
6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.
2 Peter 3:18
II. Believers Who Finish Well Allow Their Beliefs to Become Convictions
The Apostle Paul had a confidence in the Word of God that prompted him to speak with boldness and exhibit courage.
23 Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me 24 and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Acts 27:23-25
III. Believers Who Finish Well Leave Behind Something that Will Benefit
`Others (A Lasting Legacy)
"How blessed is the man who fears the LORD, Who greatly delights in His commandments. His descendants will be mighty on earth; The generation of the upright will be blessed."
Jabez prayed, "Oh that Thou wouldst bless me indeed, and enlarge my border, and that Thy hand might be with me, and that Thou wouldst keep me from harm."
1 Chronicles 4:10
I once heard someone say, “Our children are messengers we send to a time we will not see.” How we live matters. I encourage you today with the famous words of Dr. Bill Tolar: “Start with a good finish.”