Finish Strong

Samson led Israel for twenty years in the days of the Philistines.

Judges 15:20

When people think of the biblical character Samson they usually focus on his strength and the fact that he was seduced by Delilah. Growing up in church, I heard over and over again the story of the end of Samson’s life–how Delilah deceived him into revealing the source of his strength and how that led to his demise.

But did you know that he led Israel for 20 years? Did you know that Samson’s story in the book of Judges stretches from chapter 13 through chapter 16. Samson’s life got four chapters of the Bible but usually only the last one is taught.

Did you know that the angel of the Lord showed up to Samson’s mom in the same way that He did to Gideon? Did you know that Samson’s mom had to commit to a Nazarite vow while she was pregnant with Samson even before Samson committed to it in his own life?

Did you know that Samson was married to a Philistine girl long before Delilah entered the picture? Yet, the girl’s father ended up giving her away to another man while Samson was gone on one of his exploits. To do this in that day (even in our own) was a total betrayal of trust.

Think about how many times Samson must have fought for and rescued the Israelites from the oppression of the Philistines in twenty years. Two decades of being an instrument of the Lord to save and deliver the people of God is no small thing. Yet, so many of us only remember the last few months of his life.

I believe this is a good warning for those of us following Jesus with our life and especially for those in full-time ministry. Finishing well is such an important thing in God’s Kingdom. People won’t remember the twenty years of faithful ministry. They’ll only remember the big mistake that brought you down. We’ve seen this truth play out with more than one famous minister that we respected.

The apostle Paul reminds the Corinthians about how the Israelites rebelled against God in the desert and then gives them a warning:

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

1 Corinthians 10:11-13

Paul reminds us:

1) If you feel strong against temptation, don’t get arrogant but stay humble. God’s grace is what empowers you to walk in holiness.

2) The enemy doesn’t have new tricks; his temptations with you will be the same that he’s used against others.

3) God is faithful. If you are following Jesus, He’ll help you navigate temptation.

4) The Holy Spirit will show you a way out and a way through. You’re never alone when facing temptation.

Paul knew how important it was to finish the race strong. We aren’t given permission to peter out at the end of our ministry or at the end of our life. God’s expectation is that we will run the race of life hard all the way through the finish line. We are never to let up and never get complacent.

To the leaders in the church of Ephesus Paul articulates the vision he has for his own life and a vision we should capture for our own:

 I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me…

Acts 20:24

How can you make sure you finish strong?

Every Promise

So the Lord gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there. The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their ancestors. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the Lord gave all their enemies into their hands. Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.

Joshua 21:43-45

This is a daunting statement. Not one promised failed! Every promise was fulfilled! Oh, how we long for those statements to be true in our own life. God is the Faithful One who will complete what He started. Philippians 1:6 says, “…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

It may be helpful for us to remember that the ones to whom God made these promises weren’t even alive at this point. He started these promises with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who had been dead for more than 400 years. He continued these promises through Moses and a whole generation of Israelites who were not longer living. And it took Joshua’s entire life to reach this point.

In our same-day delivery culture, we often expect God’s promises to happen overnight. Or, if we’re mature Christians, we expect them within a few years. But God’s timing is different than ours. God is a Promise Keeper. He is faithful. We need to become people of patience and perseverance.

Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up“(Luke 18:1). The name of this story became The Parable of the Persistent Widow. Jesus told his disciples this parable in order to illustrate endurance, persistence, and unyielding determination.

At the conclusion of the parable Jesus assures His hearers that God will hold up His end of the deal but then asks, “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?“(Luke 18:8). Jesus was saying that one way we display our faith is through relentless persistence. Faith often looks like unyielding determination. Faith is when we have every reason to give up on a promise from God and instead we press in even more.

What promise are you waiting to be fulfilled?

Don’t give up! Keep going! Keep believing! Keep trusting! Keep praying! Keep pursuing it! God will keep His word.