I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 TI 4.7
It doesn’t matter how we start the Christian race. Many explode out of the gate like racehorses, only to stumble along the way. We regularly hear of the failures of Christian leaders. Believers get ensnared by pride, drugs, and sexual sin. 20-year believers sometimes wind up agnostics or atheists. I hope, by God’s grace, I finish well.
Keep Jesus your treasure.
The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. PS 16.5-6
Paul’s main goal in life was to press on to know Jesus more and more. When Jesus is our treasure the lures and attractions of the world pale in comparison.
Be consistent in Bible intake
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. PS 119.11
When we drift from God’s word, we set ourselves up to fall. God’s word is filled with promises, warnings and wisdom to keep us from drifting and sinning.
Pray without ceasing 1 Thess 5.17
When we neglect prayer we miss out on God’s help and power. He is a rewarder of those who seek him. He is waiting to give us strength and joy when we ask.
Cultivate the fear of the Lord
The fear of the LORD leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm. PR 19.23
God will not be mocked, and he will lovingly discipline us for sin. When we fear God we know he sees our every act and knows our every thought. The fear of the Lord will spare us from so many sins that would derail us.
Cultivate trust in God. Beware unbelief.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. PR 3.5
When things go well it’s easy to trust God. But when hard times hit, we are tempted to think he’s abandoned us or isn’t faithful. We’re tempted to look for other things to satisfy us. Let us regularly quote Peter, “Where would I go Lord? You have the words of eternal life.
Don’t forget you have an enemy
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 PE 5.8
We often forget we have a real enemy. If he can’t steal our eternal life, Satan will try to get us to sin and be unfruitful. He’s going to tempt you today. Are you ready?
Beware the cares and worries of this world
…but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. MK 4.19
The cares of this world – our kids, our bills, our health, our homes, our grades, our jobs…all these things press on us. We must be diligent in God’s word or the world will choke our faith.
Guard against the love of money
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 1 TI 6.10
It’s so easy to think “I don’t love money.” But are you generous? Do you give to the poor? To your church? How much do you think about the next thing you want to buy? The love of money has caused may to wander away from the faith.
Watch over your heart
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. PR 4.23
What are you believing about God? About your life? Are you beginning to give in to some kind of temptation? What kinds of things are you taking in to your mind? Are you inwardly grumbling and complaining? Are you thinking thoughts of self-pity? Or are you seeking to praise God inwardly? Do you tell yourself God is working all this for my good? What we think about regularly is critical – our thoughts are “the springs of life.”
Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 1 CO 6.18
Stay as far from it as you can. Don’t go near the magazine rack. Don’t flirt with it online. Pray daily, “Lead me not into temptation.” All day long, pray, “Lord Jesus, keep me from lust.” Stay out of the car in the park in the dark. Don’t go near the door of her house. Sexual sin has derailed multitudes.
Expect you will suffer. Be prepared for disappointments and pain.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 1 PE 4.12
Christians sometimes forget they will suffer. “It wasn’t supposed to be this way.” “I can’t believe this happened to me.” Sooner or later, Jesus takes us through fire and floods. Be ready for them and they won’t undo you.
Don’t have any secrets – be honest with others
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another JA 5.16
David hid his sin and it only multiplied. Share your burdens and temptations with others. Don’t have a secret life. Have at least one person you can share your struggles with.
Try to thank God continually
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 TH 5.18
Thankfulness keeps our focus on God and off ourselves. It expresses faith and produces joy.
Seek to cultivate humility – guard against pride
One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor. PR 29.23
Listen to others. Be teachable. Pride has wrecked so many. God gives grace to the humble. Those who humble themselves will be exalted. Remember you have blind spots. You don’t know everything. You’re not always right. Others have insights you need.
Think often of heaven
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 1 PE 2.11
If we remember we are only passing through this world and our true home is heaven it will motivate us to abstain from fleshly passions. Paul kept his eyes on the crown he’d receive for running the race and fighting faith’s fight. Live to hear God say at the end of your life, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master.”
There are probably many more truths to consider to finish our lives in Christ well. But I hope these encourage you.
Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter. Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.