Jesus died on a cross to redeem man from the curse of death. There are several stories of how people died in the Bible and a couple who did not exactly die. My question is, “What will your life be like to others the day you die?”
(2 Kings 2:9-12)
A. Making a decision to change or to do something is nice but that is usually not enough. You need to have the ability to see it through to the end and not quit. Have you ever noticed in life that a good start isn’t always enough? Getting a good start is important. If you don’t get a good start your chances of finishing strong are not that good, but of the two, finishing strong is most the important. You can always overcome a bad start, but you can’t overcome a bad finish. If you finish bad, you lose!
B. You think about people like Solomon who had everything. David was his father. He was blessed with the Temple of God. He was given a chance to ask God for anything and he asked for the best thing possible: wisdom. He was rich, famous and, yes, had lots of wives. But as great as his beginning was as king, his ending seemed lack luster at best and spiritually drained at worst.
C. I have failed almost every New Year’s “resolution” I have ever made. But today, I want to talk about people who finished life well. Finished with heaven as the goal line and crossed it with the hand of God at work in their lives. So today, we are just going to look at few Bible stories of those who ended well and see if there is something we can draw from each one to help our life today.
A. The life of the great prophet Elijah is one that is filled with God. Most say that Elijah is the quintessential prophet. While he was not the first to prophecy, he was, if you will, the “father of the prophets.”
B. His interaction with Ahab and Jezebel is stuff that gets our spiritual life excited. Here was a man who stood up to two of the worst people in biblical history: a weak but sinful king and powerful and evil queen. It was Elijah that God used to bring Israel to its spiritual senses.
C. For over three years it did not rain. The people suffered, but their suffering was for a purpose. They needed to remember. At the end of that time, Elijah called the prophets of Baal to meet him on Mt. Carmel for spiritual show down. There these false spiritual men cried out to their false god and got no answer. Then Elijah repaired the altar of the Lord according the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob and made an offering on it, covering it was so much with the precious water that the water filled a trench at the base. Then Elijah prayed these words (1 Kings 18:36b-37).
D. Fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the water. The result was what Elijah wanted from the people (vs 39).
E. But the reading today was the end of his earthly life. One of his students, Elisha, followed Elijah around knowing that this was the end of his time. The lesson I want us to take home comes from right after that story and sets up Elijah for his homecoming with God. It is found in 1 Kings 19 as Elijah hears God speak in the still quiet whisper. Elijah was feeling alone and sorry for himself, but God was not done with him yet. Listen to God speak (1 Kings 19:11-18).
F. Sometimes we feel as though we have done all we can do for the Lord. The glory days are over. The power we once had seems to have gone quiet inside us. But here is my point, God is not done with you yet. No matter what is happening in your life, part of your job is to get the next generation ready for God to work in them the way He has in you. You have a mission that affects the children of this congregation. You have a calling that affects your own family. You have a legacy that needs to be seen before you homecoming with the Lord. Don’t quit living just because you are tired, afraid or lonely. God’s not done with you yet.
A. One of the greatest men this earth has been blessed to know is Peter. Here is a disciple whom Jesus named. A man who walked on water, a man who was with Jesus when he was transfigured, a man who was passionate for Jesus.
B. Peter was not perfect. He denied Jesus three times the day of the crucifixion. He once turned his back on Gentile Christians when the pressure on was him. Yet, of all the stories we could use to help us see how to finish well, it is one that tradition speaks of and the Bible gives a hint of. After Jesus asks Peter three times “do you love me” a statement is recorded for us that gets overlooked. READ John 21:18-19.
C. The point I want you to take with you today is that Jesus doesn’t just give a second chance; Jesus offers you every chance to follow him. It is not a matter of can you repent, but will you repent. Jesus who saw the failure of Peter and told him he would deny him three times, is the same Jesus who saw the end of Peter’s life as one that would end in martyrdom. But what I love is that John wrote that parentheses in verse 19 that Jesus spoke to Peter about the kind of death that would glorify God.
D. No matter how far you have gone, you are only one turn from coming home. But when you come home, come with so much zeal that your life and your death speak of the Glory of God. Be the Christian other Christians talk about as one who loves deeply, lives passionately, and longs for coming of Jesus.
A. The man the Bible gives us the most about in bringing the message of salvation to the Gentiles is Paul. The missionary journeys recorded in Acts, his many letters to churches and people all help us to see the passion Paul had of seeing the world come to know salvation that comes by the grace of Jesus. Paul never forgot his past. He was a person who worked hard in his early life to be the best Jew he knew how to be. He was trained by the best and had a mind like few others. Yet, his harm that he did to Christians and the early church caused him to see himself as the chief of sinners.
B. He made it is his mission in life to be a slave to Jesus. He would go and do where others only ran away. He faced hardship and persecutions because he wanted people to be saved.
C. He, like Peter, had a mission to help the next generation take the leadership roles. One he mentored was Timothy. A man Paul knew since Timothy was a boy. Paul many not have had the best start, but he sure finished well. Believing that his life would end before Jesus came again, and knowing that it would be taken from by the leaders of Rome, Paul have a final statement to Timothy that we can take home with us today. (READ 2 Tim. 4:6-8)
D. What a statement to Timothy. Paul is not bragging on his ministry but is confident that he can die with God taking him home. What he wanted Timothy to know, and you and me, is that this promise of a crown of righteousness is for all who have loved his appearing.
A. So do you? Do you love that Jesus came to this earth, died and rose again so that you can bask in the grace of salvation? Do you love and long for Jesus to come again because that great day of Judgement is not one you fear but one you trust in?
B. Finish well. Not matter what your start has been, no matter where you on the journey right now, you have the chance to finish well. If you are ready to march to Zion, and would like us to surround in your walk, then come as we stand and sing.
Because of Jesus,
Jeffrey Dillinger, minister