College football season has just ended, professional football season is almost over, and basketball season is under way. As I have watched several games, of both football and basketball, I have been made keenly aware of the fact that it not always how good you start the game but how you finish that often matters the most. One of the teams that I was rooting for the other day started off really well, and even led at half time. Yet they lost the game by a good number of points. Starting good is important, but finishing is very significant as well.
I believe this to be true in our spiritual relationship with God. Some, after obeying the gospel,are extremely faithful it seems. Yet when difficulties arise, which they will, they drift away from the Lord and become unfaithful. They had a good beginning, but they did not finish what they had started. Jesus spoke about this problem in Luke 8:13, in the parable of the Sower. "But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away." That which caused their departure was not the temptation; it was the lack of spiritual growth on their part.
Growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord is vital to the relationship that we have with Him. One of the problems addressed by the writer of the book of Hebrews is their failure to become mature in Christ. He said, "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil" (Hebrews 5:12-14). Oh that we all had that incredibly intense desire for the "pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby" (1 Peter 2:2). Instead of running the risk of not finishing our race, by our failure to grow, our maturity can help insure that we finish our earthly pilgrimage faithful to the Lord.
Sometimes the team leading at half time, may think they have the game won, lose their focus in the second half and also the game. This happens far too often to the people of God. Instead of setting their "mind on things above" (Colossians 3:2), they are consumed with the things of the world (1 John 2:15-17). Look once again at the words of Jesus, "Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity" (Luke 8:14). It is not that the cares, riches, and pleasures of life are sinful things within themselves; they become sinful when we put them ahead of serving God. We must have our priorities in order (Matthew 6:33). If not, our finish will not be successful.
When Paul wrote the young evangelist Timothy, he said, "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing" (2 Timothy 4:6-8). A good start is important, but the way that we finish life's race is vital! If your life ended today, could it be said of you that I have finished the race, I have keep the faith, and now there is that victor's crown awaiting me? Obey the gospel, grow, keep your priorities right, and press on to the finish line and by the grace of Almighty God eternal life is awaiting.