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Finish What is Started|June 23, 2024

Updated: 4 days ago

Finish What Is Started


Scriptures:  Genesis 19:17, 24-26; Philippians 3:13; Matthew 24:5-13


Good morning Strangers Rest! The title of my message this morning is “Finish What Is Started.” Please note that I did not say “Finish what “you” started, but finish “what is” started. What you will hear this morning is that as a Christian we must finish the work together, regardless of the one who initiated it.


I am going to ask you a question that I want you to think about as you listen to the rest of this message. The question is this: “Are you a starter or a finisher?” Many people start things, but for a variety of reasons, they do not always finish them. Then there are those who start things, but how they finish them is dependent upon how long the project or task takes to complete. If it does not take too long they can finish it and give it their best. However, if it is something that is drawn out, their enthusiasm for the project starts to fall off and when that happens so does the quality of their work. Now they might finish whatever it is that they are doing, but the finished project might not be the absolute best it could be. When we are doing the Lord’s work we should be giving it our best knowing and understanding that most of the time it will be a lengthy process. Paul addressed this in Galatians 6:9. I will read it from the Amplified Bible, and it says, “Let us not grow weary or become discouraged in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap, if we do not give in.” (Galatians 6:9, Amp) It is easy to start and finish something when it is enjoyable – even if it is taking a lot of time. But when we are doing something that is not particularly enjoyable, we can become weary and that is when the quality suffers, or things are left unfinished. And when things are left unfinished there is no reward for a job well done.


Likewise, when someone starts their part of a larger project but does not finish it someone else must come in and complete their job in order for the larger project to be completed. Let me bring this closer to home. Have you ever hired someone to do work at your home and they started the work but did not finish it? If we hire the wrong company to do a job and it is not completed to our satisfaction, it can be more costly to hire another company to come in and finish what was started because oftentimes they must redo some of the first company’s work. This is also true when a person thinks they can do it themselves only to find out they are not capable of finishing it. Regardless of the situation, a job was started but could not be completed because the person did not have the necessary skills, experience, and/or desire to do it. This is the situation we often find with the Lord’s work. There are Christians who have a lot of ideas about what needs to be done and are willing to tell anyone who will listen to them, but when it comes to actually doing the work they have no interest in starting or finishing it. So, are you a starter; a finisher or someone who just make suggestion after suggestion from the sidelines? God needs people who are both starters and finishers and who understand what role(s) they are playing in a given situation. Let me explain.


Someone can have an innovative idea, but that does not necessarily mean that they are the one who should implement it. For example, I might choose a nice paint color for my office, but I promise you, I should not be the one who does the painting. In Church there are people who can envision a project but will need the help of others to pull it through. Then there are those who cannot envision a project but once they know what it is and the goal or outcome, they are extremely capable of pulling things together to get the project or task completed. The two working together can fulfill what God desires in a situation. Paul addressed this when he wrote in First Corinthians 3:6-10, “(6) I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. (7) So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. (8) Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. (9) For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, you are God's building. (10) According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it.” 


In this situation, Paul was addressing people who were trying to align themselves with a certain apostle and thus causing a division within the Church. What I want you to see is that Paul said the work was for the Lord and each one would receive their reward. He stressed that one might plant, another might water, but it is God who gives the increase. The one who planted and the one who watered were both working in the same garden for the same Master and that is how we should be operating. What Satan desires is that when something is started in Church jealousy arises to either slow down the process or stop it in its track. He gets this done by planting the seed that only certain people are allowed to lead a project or only certain people’s ideas are accepted and acted upon. We cannot fall for this distraction – ESPECIALLY when someone comes to us with an idea when they are not a part of “my” ministry. It’s amazing how in Church we want people to stay in their lane and if they cannot, just stay out of my lane. God does not respect “our lanes” and He will bring forth His desires to any vessel that is open to hearing Him! 


So, as it relates to your walk with Christ and what you are to be doing at Strangers Rest Baptist Church, are you are starter, a finisher, both or just the person making recommendations from the sidelines? I sincerely hope that everyone here develops a desire to be both a starter and a finisher – willing to help get the work done even if it is someone else’s idea. This means that even though someone else has the idea and someone else might start the project, you make yourself available when needed to help pull it through because you are doing it for the Lord. To do the Lord’s work we must check our egos at the door and be willing to help in any area even if we are just “the help” because someone else is operating as the leader. I want you to think about what you have going on in your life right now, spiritually and in the natural world, and ask yourself if you are starting something or finishing it. Do you see yourself as a starter, finisher, or both? Before this morning you might have thought that you could not be a finisher unless you were also a starter as everyone starts out as a starter. But as you have heard, in our walk with Christ we are sometimes called upon to finish the work that others have started. God needs resolute people who are willing to not only finish what they start for Him, but also step in for others who are unable to complete what they start for God.


As you have heard me say before, to move forward and complete the current work, we might have to forget some things from the past, especially when we might have tried something, and it did not work out. Paul wrote in Philippians 3:13-14, “(13) Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, (14) I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  Paul said that while he had not laid hold of it yet (that final prize) he willfully decided to forget what was behind and reached for what laid ahead. The word “forgetting” in the Greek portrayed the idea of something you should “turn away from and forget” or when used in the passive sense, “something put aside, deliberately ignored, purposefully disregarded, and completely forgotten.” It communicates that something may have been true in the past but is no longer applicable today. Paul was saying that for him to reach forward he had to forget about what was behind. Reaching forward while forgetting what was behind is not a onetime thing; it is a continual choice that we make each day. So, the first thing we must do to finish what is started is to forget about the past failures that would make us think we cannot succeed now. This also means we must forget, or set aside, past hurts and offenses to work side by side with the one who offended us. This is one of the biggest struggles within the Church – Christians, children of God – not being able to work with another Christian because their feelings were hurt, and they refuse to forgive.


I want you to see what Paul saw. When Paul used the term “reaching forward” he used the Greek word epekteino. It is a word that was used to picture runners in a foot race. This word portrays a runner who is running with all his might towards the finish line before him. If you have ever watched a track race, what happens when the runner gets to the finish line? As they approach the finish line, they either lean forward or stick out their chest to be the first to cross. This is because the rules say that the torso, the chest area, (not the hands, legs, head, etc.) must cross the finish line. The runners must keep their eyes on the finish line, and they run towards that goal. If the runner is to win the prize, they must give it their best and complete the race. What Paul describes in this verse is the image of someone running a sprint race, not a relay. If you get nothing else from this message, I want you to leave here understanding the difference between running a sprint and running a relay. I will reference the natural before I translate it to the spiritual.


Sprint: If you are running a sprint race, it is just you. When the gun sounds, you immediately start running fastest towards the goal. While you may notice competitors in your peripherals, you are not focusing on anyone else. It is you, your stride and the goal line that is before you. Your focus is on finishing the race and finishing it strong. You are trying to win. You are not looking back at who is behind you; your total focus is on what is before you – the finish line. Even if other runners are ahead of you, you do not stop because you understand that there is more to finishing the race than just being first in it. So you keep running “your” race as hard as you can while keeping the finish line in your sight.


Relay: In a relay race, you are running as a team. If you run the first leg, you run it like a sprinter. The person who runs the first leg is the only one who truly can run it like a sprinter start to finish. If you run the 2nd, 3rd or 4th leg of the race, you must be mindful of the person who will be handing you the baton. So, what do you do? You look behind and wait until they are closing in on you before you start. When they are close you start running, but you still must be mindful that they are behind you so you cannot really run your race until they place the baton in your hand and then you can give it your all. This goes for the runners of the 3rd and 4th legs also.


In the natural, if you are running a sprint, it is all about you. You are not dependent on anyone else – it is just you, your conditioning and your running abilities. However, if you are running in a relay, your overall efforts are also dependent on the person who is handing you the baton and the person you will be handing the baton to. The only way you can win a relay is that each person involved does their job flawlessly. Can you see this?


Now let me shift to the spiritual. There are Christians who are running in a sprint race with the mentality that they are running in relay. They start the race and then start looking behind them at others, or what they left behind, and ultimately take their eyes off the goal line. Or they start their race and forgetting that it is just them, they start looking around to see what everyone else is doing in their race and if there is someone available for them to pass the baton off to. The problem is, when we are running in a sprint race we run alone, we have no baton to pass off and no one to give it to. What God has told me to do I must complete, even if I must do it alone. In a Church setting we are running individual sprints because of our personal relationship with Christ and at the same time running relays when it comes to the functional aspects of getting things accomplished as a Church body. However, the sprint race that we run individually is most important because it is that race that we run alone which equips us to run in the relay with others. Do you see this? We cannot run our sprints while looking at what we left behind or what is behind us! What Paul said in verse thirteen is about finishing the race. When we accept Christ, we start the race, but we must finish it. Strangers Rest, please understand, you are running your individual sprint and how you run it will determine your ability to help the Church run in the relay. But it starts with how you are running your race first.


Do you remember the story of Lot as recorded in Genesis chapter nineteen? When the angels of the Lord arrived in Sodom and Gomorrah to destroy those cities, it was Lot who took them in to protect them. The next morning the angels escorted Lot, his wife and two daughters out of the city. Listen to the command that the angel gave to Lot and his family: “So it came to pass, when they had brought them outside, that he said, ‘Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed.’”   (Genesis 19:17) The angel told them specifically to leave and escape for their lives and not to stay anywhere within the valley. But the angels also told them “do not look behind you….” They were told to leave and to focus on what was ahead of them. They were told not to look back. We are not told why they were told not to look back, but we know had they spent their time looking back they would not have made it to where they were going. They were to focus on what was ahead of them and not what was being destroyed behind them. But what happened? After they arrived at the city of Zoar, Lot’s wife looked behind her. Maybe she was curious about what was happening to the cities or maybe she looked back because of the life she had to leave behind. We do not know exactly why she looked, but she disobeyed the angel’s command and looked behind her. Genesis 19:26 records, “But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.” (Genesis 19:26) 


When Lot’s wife looked behind her to see what was happening, she turned to a pillar of salt. Let me make this clear. They had arrived at a city where they could be safe, so they were no longer in danger of being caught up in the destruction. Based on the city’s location, she could see the smoke rising from the destruction of the two cities and if she did it was the last sight she saw. This was not a case of her turning to a pillar salt because she saw the smoke because we know that Abraham also witnessed the destruction and lived. She turned to a pillar of salt because she looked behind her after being commanded not to. She made it to the finish line but did not cross it out of disobedience. How many of us are so close to our finish lines but we cannot cross it because we cannot stop looking at what is behind us, what we left behind or are in the process of leaving behind? We cannot finish the race that we faithfully started because we are tied to something in our past. Lot’s wife could not keep her eyes forward and looked back on what was happening to Sodom and Gomorrah. What are you looking back at in your life? What is stopping you from finishing whatever it is that you have started? We need to become finishers!


Jesus made the following statement to His disciples, and it is important to note this because it speaks to the individual race we are running and to the relay race we are running with others. He said in Matthew 24:9-13, and I am reading from the Amplified Bible, “(9) Then they will hand you over to [endure] tribulation, and will put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. (10) At that time many will be offended and repelled [by their association with Me] and will fall away [from the One whom they should trust] and will betray one another [handing over believers to their persecutors] and will hate one another. (11) Many false prophets will appear and mislead many. (12) Because lawlessness is increased, the love of most people will grow cold. (13) But the one who endures and bears up [under suffering] to the end will be saved.”


In these verses Jesus describes the times in which we are currently living. Remember, each of us is running in a sprint, but as a group, we are running relays. How I run in my personal race directly impacts how I will run in this relay race with you. Jesus said in verse ten that “(10) At that time many will be offended and repelled [by their association with Me] and will fall away [from the One whom they should trust] and will betray one another [handing over believers to their persecutors] and will hate one another.” These are individuals who started their race but will not finish it. Not only will they not finish the race, but they will turn on others who are trying to finish their race. This is what Jesus was saying when He said they will be repelled by their association with Him and fall away. And, after they have fallen away, they will begin to betray one another and hate one another.


We all know people who make a decision about something and then try to get others to believe what they believe and then get angry with them when they do not. We are living in a time when Christianity is not extremely popular and because it is coming under attack, some do not publicly acknowledge their faith, and some are even walking away from it all together and seeking something easier to follow. Now, do not get me wrong, the Church is not perfect, but the One the Church is supposed to serve and represent is. We individually are not perfect but the One we worship is perfect! It is not about me, and it is not about you, it is about Christ. Jesus said many will fall away. I do not care who tells you that you cannot walk away from your salvation; Jesus said many will fall away from Him! You can call that what you want. Now look at verse thirteen. He said, “But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.” We must finish the race!


Let me bring this home. Paul said in First Corinthians 9:24, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.” Strangers Rest, there is absolutely no way we can obtain the prize if we do not first finish the race! Think about it. Have you witnessed anyone stopping short of the finish line in any race and being declared the victor? Have you seen anyone compete at anything and not finish but still be declared the winner? It does not happen!!! For us to win we must first start and then we must finish. Sometimes we may not finish first and we still win because the first-place winner gets disqualified for some reason. But even in that case we must still finish the race. I want to make this truly clear – unlike some things, when we walk with Christ we must finish. Starting does not get us credit, finishing does. Participation trophies won for showing up will not get us into heaven! As Paul wrote to the Christians in Galatia, “Let us not grow weary or become discouraged in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap, if we do not give in.” (Galatians 6:9, Amp) And just before he died, Paul said this to Timothy: “(6) For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. (7) I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (8) 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.” (Second Timothy 4:6-8) Paul had finished his race and he was ready to go. He had no regrets as he had successfully run his race while also influencing how others ran their race. Can we say the same thing?


As each of us look at our lives, we have started things that we did not finish. Some of us have thought about and planned to start some things and did not do it. Some of us want and expect credit for starting something even if we do not finish it. We hand in unfinished work because we expect credit for what we do whether it is finished or not. We go to our jobs and half do it because we know we can get away with it. However, if our employers only paid us half our pay because we did the job “halfway” we would be filing lawsuits because we gave them eight hours of our presence and we should be paid for those eight hours we showed up. We must finish what we (and in some cases others) have started for the Lord.


Strangers rest, I told you in the title of this message that we must finish what is started – not just what “we” started, but what “is” started. We have a lot of work to do and races we are starting to run together – we must finish them. Although we have the skill, do we have the will? “Will we successfully run our race(s) while also simultaneously helping others run their race?” When I think of the races this Church is currently entering and running, I think about how massive these races appear to be. But then I remember what Isaiah said in Isaiah 40:31, “But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” We are waiting upon the Lord, and this is our promise. We will run our race and not be weary! We will walk and not faint! Paul told the Church in Galatia “Let us not grow weary or become discouraged in doing good…” Well, Isaiah told us how to do this – by waiting on the Lord! When we wait on the Lord our strength is renewed and we will run (our race) without growing weary!


This Church has started several races and if you did not start one of them you can join the race and help finish it. There is an outreach race that has been started. This race needs runners who will proactively start touching lives in the community to bring them to Christ and hopefully to Strangers Rest. There is a reengagement race starting for our youth and young adults. This race needs runners with the energy to cast off everything that has held them back and look forward with a new vision of what could be for them in this place. Then there is the social media race already in progress, but it is not too late to join the relay. This race needs runners who are willing to say “yes” I will take the baton and make sure it keeps moving forward. Did I mention the music ministry race? Oh, this race is a good one. They need runners who want to encourage all the runners in the other races through music. It is like being a cheerleader, but through the praise and worship of God you strengthen the runners when they begin to feel a little weary – reminding them to wait on the Lord. The last race I will mention is the pastoral race. While this race will be run by an individual, your current race is to prayerfully, united as one, seek God for His person to run in this race as God’s shepherd for Strangers Rest. Like every race, you must have the right runner in the role if you are going to achieve God’s will for the Church. Everyone needs to be involved in this specific race! There are races being run and some of you are still in the stands watching. Some of you are still warming up even though the race has already begun. It is time to get on the field as all these races will establish the outcome of the final race that this Church will be running.


Strangers Rest, I hope that each of us will make the decision to finish what is started, both in our personal race and in the relay races of this Church. No more half-stepping. No more settling. No more enabling others to half do something. No more standing on the sideline, not willing to run in the race but complaining about those who are doing their best to finish it. We should demand that a job is done to completion – whatever that job is. If someone says they will do something, do not accept them not doing it. With love we must hold each other accountable for what we say we will do. As a Church that is part of our relay. If I am depending on you and you do not do your part, that hinders me from doing something that I am responsible for because now I must pause what I am doing to complete what you were responsible for so I can complete my work. For each one of us, let our “yeas” be “yeas” and or let our “nays” be “nays.” When you agree to do something, more than anything else, let your word be true and finish it. Let your life from this day forward be defined as a finisher, not just a starter. Choose to finish what you start; no more quitting before you are finished!!! Remember what is recorded in Hebrews 12:1-2  “(1) Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, (2) looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” We are surrounded by an excellent group of race finishers! Let us join them!


Until next time, “The Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up His countenance on you and give you peace.”  (Numbers 6:24-26)

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“Til all the ransomed church of God is saved to sin no more"

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