It’s not how you start – it’s how you finish!

“I want to enter heaven breathlessly. I want to break the tape with a shout of ‘I did it!’”

That was the heart’s desire of my first spiritual director, Alex Buchanon. I remember hearing him share this over 20 years ago and feeling so inspired and challenged to finish well in my journey of following Jesus.

As the old song says, it’s not how you start – it’s how you finish!

In 2 Timothy 4:6-8, the Apostle Paul is writing to his friend and mentee Timothy. This may be the last letter Paul writes. He knows he will imminently be executed by the mad Roman Emperor Nero. But in these verses, we see that he is facing death with faith, not fear. Paul looks back over the adventure of his life with Christ. The successes and failures. The highs and lows. And he writes to Timothy with a thankful heart that he will face his saviour knowing that he will finish well. He will enter heaven breathlessly and break the tape!

Why? Because he fought the good fight, he finished his unique race, and he kept hold of his faith (even when his faith was tested). But how was Paul able to do all this? 

Can I suggest three things, told to us by Paul’s co-worker, Peter, found in 2 Peter 1.

Firstly, he was consumed by God power. In 2 Peter 1:3, Peter declares that by His power, God has given us everything we need to live a godly life. Paul and Peter both knew that they could never walk the journey of following Jesus without the power of the Holy Spirit.

Ultimately, only the God who created you, knows you, loves you, died for you, lives for you, longs for you and prays for you – only Jesus Christ has the power to transform your life so that you can be your very best for Him.

Let’s commit to a spiritual habit of starting every day surrendering afresh to Jesus and praying “Fill me with the Holy Spirit. Change me. Transform me. Empower me. Help me become the person you created me to be. Release your divine power in my weakness.”

Secondly, he was confident in God’s promises. In 2 Peter 1:4, Peter reminds us that God has given us incredible promises that are unbreakable and unshakeable.

Life can be incredibly tough at times. It might seem like Heaven is silent and God is absent. It’s in these moments that we grab hold of God’s promises so that we don’t lose heart. The promises of God encourage us to keep on, keeping on. To become better, not bitter. 

If you need some promises to encourage you today then take a deep dive into 1 Chronicles 28:20, Isaiah 40:30-31, Matthew 11:28-29, Philippians 1:6. Let those words soak into your soul and give you hope.

Finally, he was committed to making progress. Peter and Paul were both consumed by God’s power and confident in His promises, but they also knew that they had some work to do themselves. It wasn’t all on God. That’s what Peter then speaks about in 2 Peter 1:5-7. 

Peter encourages us to give EVERYTHING we’ve got to growing eight distinguishing marks or qualities, building on the power and promises of God. He commands us to give everything we’ve got to growing our faith in God – being morally excellent or good – growing in our knowledge and wisdom – cultivating self-control – building perseverance – pursuing godliness – loving our Christian family and the world!

Your growth is your responsibility. It’s not all on God. You make a choice – and the Holy Spirit co-operates with your choices.

When we’re consumed by God’s power, confident in God’s promises and committed to make progress, then as Peter writes in 2 Peter 1:8, we will be more productive and useful in the world for Christ. We WILL make a positive Kingdom difference in the world.

Each and every one of us was born for a reason. We are intentionally created. Deeply known. Unconditionally loved. Joyfully adopted. And purposefully planned. 

Let’s commit to finish well and break Heaven’s tape – like those who have gone before us.

Why settle for anything less?

You can find Matt Summerfield’s Bible Study session from
Saturdays TG21 Session at around 54:35

Image Credit: Braden Collum