Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Finishing strong

Today I had a very special friend over to tea.
I love these times of sipping from a cup of hot tea with honey and lemon and being quiet, listening to the voice of my guest of honor. This was my second tea time with God and today's passage made me think about my own life.

And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said,
"Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit:"
and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.
(Luke 23:46)

Jesus' is a wonderful example how we might end our work each day. Of course we need to commend our work to the Lord.
But finishing strong means to persevere and to be humbly and obedient. Not only in our work, but also in our relationships to each other in order to glorify God. We shouldn't give only little parts to Him but our whole life. Finish strong, that's the only thing that matters!

The following is an edited excerpt from Steve Farrar’s book Finishing Strong.

You’ve heard of Billy Graham. But what about Chuck Templeton or Bron Clifford? Have you ever heard of them?
Billy Graham wasn’t the only young preacher packing auditoriums in 1945. Chuck Templeton and Bron Clifford were accomplishing the same thing – and more. All three young men were in their mid-twenties. One seminary president after hearing Chuck Templeton preach one evening to an audience of thousands called him “the most gifted and talented young man in America today for preaching.”
Templeton and Graham were friends. Both ministered for Youth for Christ. Both were extraordinary preachers. Yet in those early years, most observers would probably have put their money on Templeton. As a matter of fact, in 1946, the National Association of Evangelicals published an article on men who were “best used of God” in that organization’s five-year existence. The article highlighted the ministry of Chuck Templeton. Billy Graham was never mentioned. Templeton, many felt, would be the next Babe Ruth of evangelism.
Bron Clifford was yet another gifted, twenty five years old fireball. In 1945, many believed Clifford the most gifted and powerful preacher the church had seen in centuries. In that same year, Clifford preached to an auditorium of thousands in Miami, Florida. People lined up ten and twelve deep outside the auditorium trying to get in.

Graham, Templeton and Clifford.

In 1945, all three came shooting out of the starting blocks like rockets. You’ve heard of Billy Graham. So how come you’ve never heard of Chuck Templeton or Bron Clifford? Especially when they came out of the chutes so strong in ’45.
Just five years later, Templeton left the ministry to pursue a career as a radio and television commentator and newspaper columnist. Templeton had decided he was no longer a believer in Christ in the orthodox sense of the term. By 1950, this future Babe Ruth wasn’t even in the game and no longer believed in the validity of the claims of Jesus Christ.
What about Clifford? By 1954, Clifford had lost his family, his ministry, his health, and then… his life. Alcohol and financial irresponsibility had done him in. He wound up leaving his wife and their two Down’s syndrome children. At just thirty five years of age, this once great preacher died from cirrhosis of the liver in a rundown motel on the edge of Amarillo. His last job was selling used cars in the panhandle of Texas. He died, as John Haggai put it, “unwept, unhonored, and unsung.” Some pastors in Amarillo took up a collection among themselves in order to purchase a casket so that his body could be shipped back East for decent burial in a cemetery for the poor.

In 1945, three men with extraordinary gifts were preaching the gospel to multiplied thousands across this nation. Within ten years, only one of them was still on track for Christ.

In the Christian life, it’s not how you start that matters. It’s how you finish.

John Bisagno has been pasturing First Baptist of Houston for a number of years. When John was just about to finish college, he was having dinner over at his fiancée’s house one night. After supper, he was talking with his future father-in-law, Dr. Paul Beck, out on the porch. Dr. Beck had been in ministry for years and that was inevitably the subject toward which the conversation turned.  
John, as you get ready to enter the ministry, I give you some advice,” Dr. Beck told the younger man. “Stay true to Jesus! Make sure that you keep your heart close to Jesus every day. It’s a long way from here to where you’re going to go and Satan’s in no hurry to get you.
The older man continued. “It has been my observation that just one out of ten who start out in full time service for the Lord at twenty-one are still on track by the age of sixty-five. They’re shot down morally, they’re shot down with discouragement, they’re shot down with liberal theology , they get obsessed with making money… but for one reason or another nine out of ten fall out.
The twenty years old Bisagno was shocked. “I just can’t believe that!” he said. “That’s impossible! That just can’t be true!

Bisagno told how he went home, took one of those blank pages in the back of his Scofield Reference Bible and wrote down the names of twenty-four young men who were his peers and contemporaries. These were young men in their twenties who were sold out for Jesus Christ. They were trained for ministry and burning in their desire to be used by the Lord. These were the committed young preachers who would make an impact for the Lord in their generation.
Bisagno relates the following with a sigh: “I am now fifty-three years old. From time to time as the years have gone by, I’ve had to turn back to that page in my Bible and cross out a name. I wrote down those twenty-four names when I was just twenty years of age. Thirty-three years later, there are only three names remaining of the original twenty-four.

In the Christian life, it’s not how you start that matters. It’s how you finish.

3 comments:

  1. What a great reminder to finish strong! Sad that so many do not achieve the actual goal in life! Thanks for encouraging us to finish strong!!

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  2. Thanks a lot for encouraging me to finish strong. Glory be to Jesus alone.

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