A while back, I bought a model of a little car. I was never very good at building models as a kid, so I thought I would revisit them as an adult. But I discovered that I had not improved one bit over the years. I was about three-quarters into building this model when I lost interest. It sat there in my house for months. My wife suggested that we throw it away. But I said, "No. I am going to finish it." But I still haven't finished it.
Aren't you glad that God isn't like that? He comes into our lives, forgives our sin, and has a goal and a plan for each of us. Imagine if He was working in your life and then suddenly said, "I am tired of this person. I am moving on to someone else." Thankfully, God finishes what He begins.
He wants us to finish what you and I have begun also, and that is the spiritual race in which we are running. The spiritual racetrack is strewn with casualties, people who started well but did not finish that way.
One of these people was Saul, the first king of Israel. The Bibles tells us that he was tall, handsome, and anointed by God to be the king. He even prophesied with the prophets. But Saul squandered his resources and opportunities. He allowed paranoia and jealousy to consume his life and ended up throwing it all away. He summed up his own life accurately when he said, "I have played the fool and erred exceedingly" (1 Samuel 26:21).
We can think of the mighty Samson, known for his superhuman strength. He was a man who had tremendous potential, raised up by God to be one of the judges of Israel. But we also know that Samson was a man with a "she" weakness. Sex became more important to him than anything or anyone else, including God. He squandered his God-given potential and continually compromised, culminating in his own premature death.
We also think of David, described in the Bible as "a man after God's own heart," again with tremendous potential. But he got sidetracked when he fell into sin with Bathsheba and tried to cover it up by having her husband Uriah sent to the front lines, resulting in his death. He was not doing well. He pulled through at the end, but just barely.
The Bible also gives us the success stories of those who started well and finished that way. There was Joseph. Though he had numerous setbacks, he came through with flying colors.
Simon Peter, again with a dramatic setback in his denial of the Lord, came to his senses and served God faithfully and even died for the faith.
Caleb is one of the unsung heroes of the Bible who, along with Joshua, was one of the 12 spies who were sent into the Promised Land to check it out before the Israelites went in. Ten of the men brought back a very pessimistic report of the land, while two, Joshua and Caleb, brought back an optimistic one. The people turned against Joshua and Caleb, and while most of them never entered the Promised Land, Joshua and Caleb did. When Caleb was 85 years old, he said, "I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me.... Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the Lord spoke in that day" (Joshua 14:11–12). Caleb finished well, and you can finish well too.
But I want to ask you: Is there anything slowing you down in this spiritual race? Is anything impeding your progress?
Some would say, "I would like to be really sold out for Christ, but it could cause some friction with certain people." Either you will have harmony with God and friction with people, or you will have friction with God and harmony with people. You can't have it both ways. Whatever you give up to follow Jesus, He will give you something better in its place. Let it go and don't be slowed down in this spiritual race.
Run from anything that would drag you down. Run to anything that would build you up. It is not enough to start a race. It is not enough to hold first place throughout that race. You have to cross the finish line, or it doesn't count. Let's cross the finish line that God has set before us.
The story of Johnny Cash’s life and spiritual struggles offers hope to anyone who has had trouble staying on the straight and narrow path—and reminds us that God redeems broken lives and makes them whole again. My new book, Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon is a fascinating look at a unique and talented musician and follower of Christ!