Finishing well

finishing a race

Dr. Bob Lowery, my favorite professor in both college and seminary, passed away in 2011 at age 62 after a long, hard-fought battle with cancer. When I visited him in the hospital just days before his death, he was very close to death and was heavily medicated. I didn’t know whether he would be able to speak. As I approached his bed, he looked directly at me, called me by my first name, and taught me his final lesson. He said only three words, but I will remember them forever. He said, “God is faithful!” Dr. Lowery taught me much about how to live, and in his dying moments, he taught me how to die. He was faithful to the very end.

Not everyone finishes well. I am always deeply saddened when I hear the news of a Christian leader who commits adultery, embezzles money, or walks away from the Lord. How sad to see people who have lived long, productive lives, and who have done so much good, have their reputations ruined by a major fall. Will Richard Nixon ever been remembered without Watergate, or Bill Clinton without Monica Lewinski? The Bible records the adultery and murder that David committed later in his life, and it also describes how as Solomon got older, he allowed his foreign wives to turn his heart from God. Paul uses two metaphors in Acts 20:24 for finishing well: a race and a task. He wanted to be faithful to the very end of his life. He didn’t want to become distracted from his purpose or to fall down in the race and be unable to finish. He didn’t want to leave a task undone or even half done. He wanted to finish—and finish well. The Bible also records the testimonies of those who finished well, such as Job and Stephen. Considering all Job’s afflictions, brought about by Satan with God’s permission, and under the weight of the stones being hurled at Stephen by the members of the Sanhedrin, either of these men could have taken the advice of Job’s wife, cursed God, and died—but they didn’t. They finished well. Scripture records that they were faithful until their dying breath.

My former student and friend Steve Szoke died at the age of 32 from colon cancer and he remained faithful to God until his final breath. Two weeks before Steve died, he wrote down his thanks to God for all the blessings in his life, including his wife, his daughter, elders from area churches, his parents, and his church. In closing, he summed up his life: “God has filled this 32-year-old punk to the brim with an amazing life.” Just two days before his death, he asked his wife, Candy, to dictate a short letter to his church that he wanted read the following Sunday. After thanking church members for their support of his family throughout their battle with cancer, Steve said, “Even though we continue to meet with dead end after dead end, we still hang onto hope, not just the physical hope for renewal but the hope for spiritual salvation.” To his dying breath, Steve was a pastor to his church, thanking them and encouraging them.

REFLECTIONS: What moral and ethical safeguards or hedges of protection do you need to set up in your life to ensure that you will finish well?  What legacy of faithfulness do you want to leave behind for your family and friends? Describe it in writing, and read your description often.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith

2 Timothy 4:7

 

 


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