Finishing Strong

One of the most amazing victories in all of history occurred on October 12, 539 B.C. The Medes and the Persians attacked Babylon. The city seemed impregnable. There were two sets of double walls; the outermost was 17 miles in length, 25 feet wide and 40 feet high! Belshazzar was having a drunken feast when he saw the writing on the wall (Daniel 5). The Persians diverted the river Euphrates into a marsh and marched in under the wall. 

In 538 B.C., one year after the Babylonian Empire fell to the Persians, the Israelites were allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple. Would you have gone with them?

Unfortunately, reality is often harsh. That tropical island is full of mosquitoes. The wonder-diet isn’t all that wonderful. The new puppy does unspeakable things to your leather sofa. So was the new life in the Promised Land. Times were tough and people quickly lost interest in rebuilding the Temple. Priorities shifted. It wasn’t until 515 B.C.; 23 years later, that the Temple was finished!

In his very first parable, Jesus warned against hasty commitments (Mt. 13), and Jesus actually turned people away who wanted to be his disciples (Lk. 9:57-62). 

He told them to “count the cost” (Luke 14:25-33).

“Counting the cost” isn’t just for people considering a change. It should be a regular part of our lives as disciples. For example, self-examination is a regular part of communion (1 Corinthians 11:28) and is a fundamental part of discipleship. The Apostle Paul wrote: 

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? 6 And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test (2 Corinthians 13:5 – 6).

So, let’s ask, “how do I finish strong?” Here are four suggestions:

  1. By starting strong. Do you remember the old saying, “Well begun is half-done”? Enthusiasm literally means “filled with the spirit.” Be an enthusiastic disciple!
  2. By monitoring your progress. Have you set spiritual goals for yourself? Set aside time to reflect. Remember, the Holy Spirit is best seen in your rearview mirror.
  3. By keeping your tank full. Don’t coast! Read, pray, fellowship with other disciples. Paul told Timothy to “Fan the flame the gift of God” (2 Timothy 1:6).
  4. By not stopping until it’s over! Winston Churchill may have given the greatest commencement speech ever. It only included nine words: “Never, never, never, never, never, never, never give up!”

Exercise

  1. Do you have any projects in your closet that you started but you just haven’t gotten around to finishing? What’s your excuse? Do you ever use that excuse with God?
  2. Why would an Israelite want to leave Babylon after their family has lived there for seventy years?
  3. What were some of the challenges they faced when they arrived in Jerusalem? (See Ezra chapter 4)
  4. What does Haggai mean when he says, “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?” (Haggai 1:4)
  5. Why would Jesus discourage anyone from following him (Luke 9:57-2)?
  6. When Jesus told his disciples to “count the cost” (Luke14:25-33) what was he referring to?
  7. Think about the communion for a moment. Paul told us to examine ourselves before we partake (1 Corinthians 11:28), but if you are honest, who is worthy to participate?
  8. So if we aren’t worthy, what should we do before we participate?

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