Scripture: 1 Kings 3:10-11:10
Summary: Finishing strong is what counts most. It is good to start strong but unless you finish strong it is of no value.
Finishing Strong ”A good start isn’t enough”
1 Kings 3:10-13, I Kings 11:3-6 & 9-11, I Cor 9:24-27
A.With the New Year approaching, people often make some resolutions that they want to accomplish for the next year. Usually before the month is over they have already given up on them.
B.Here are the year’s top ten New Year’s resolutions.
C.Making a decision to change or to do something is nice but that is usually not enough. You need to have the ability to see it through to the end and not quit. Have you ever noticed in life that a good start isn’t always enough? Getting a good start is important. If you don’t get a good start your chances of finishing strong are not that good, but of the two, finishing strong is most the important. You can always overcome a bad start, but you can’t overcome a bad finish. If you finish bad, you lose! A good start alone is not enough to get us to the finish line, or to the winners’ circle.
D.If you don’t believe me, ask the 1969 Baltimore Orioles, who dominated major league baseball that year. Won 109 games — more than any other team. And their opponents in the World Series were the New York Mets. Everyone expected the Orioles to win easily, and when they won the first game it seemed as though they had it in the bag. In just four more games it was over, but the New York Mets were the ones wearing that World Series ring. In 1969 the Orioles and all of Baltimore were convinced of the truth that a good start isn’t enough.
E.What about the 2005 football season for the Indianaplis Colts. The start of the 2005 season for the Colts was incredible. They started the season with a 13-game winning streak, and entering the playoffs, were heavily favored to go to the Super Bowl. Considering that the team that they played next was the Pittsburg Steelers a team that they blew out the past 2 years in the playoffs. However, the Colts were upset by the #6-seeded Steelers, and their season ended. The week following the game the city of Indianapolis did not throw a parade to celebrate the Colts 13 game winning streak at the beginning of the season. Good starts are not enough.
F. We all have experienced the reality of this truth in our own everyday lives. Perhaps, we start out real good on a new diet or exercise program as part of our new year resolutions. Or on a project around the house, a class in school, a job in church or in paying off some bills. I mean we are out of that starting gate like hungry grey hounds chasing a rabbit. But time passes and the diet ends, the exercise stops, we fail the class, the job doesn’t get done and the bills are still where we left them. You see, though there is nothing wrong with a good start, it just isn’t enough.
G.Today, I want to take a look at a man who had an awesome start but had a lousy finish, King Solomon.
Solomon had a good start I Kings 3:10-13
A.He was humble and dependent on God.
1.At the very beginning of his reign as king he went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices to God. The text says that he offered a thousand burnt offerings on the altar. And that night the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream and said, “What do you want? Ask and I will give it to you.” If you were Solomon what would you have asked for? Now, Solomon being a new king, was feeling overwhelmed by the task and the amount of people who would be looking to him for all things. So Solomon made this request of God, “O Lord my God, now you have made king instead of my father David, but I am like a child who doesn’t know his way around. And here I am among your own chosen people, a nation so great they are too numerous to count! Give me an understanding mind so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this nation of yours.” I Kings 3:10-13. And the Bible says, “Since you asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have you asked for the death of your enemies, but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never be anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for both riches and honor so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings.”
2.Solomon started strong. He was humble and knew he needed to depend on God to succeed.
3.He also had a good prayer life. One of the most beautiful and powerful prayers ever prayed can be found in I Kings 8:22-30. When the building of the temple was complete Solomon had the priests bring the ark into the Holy Place, and when the priest withdrew from the holy Place, the glory of the Lord filled the temple in a great cloud. Then Solomon gathered the whole assembly of Israel in front of the Temple. And he prayed a prayer of dedication. It was an awesome prayer.
B.He had a good father I Kings 2:1-3
1.Solomon was born into the home of King David. Now David was not a perfect man. He made mistakes but God said this of David, “He is a man after my own heart.” I don’t imagine higher words could be given to anyone. Solomon had a good father.
2.Now, fathers are important in the raising of children. Not only is it important to have a father but it is also important to have a father who is a good man. To be fortunate enough to be born into a home where the father is present and where the father is also a good man is to begin life with a good start.
C.He did great things for God
1.During Solomon’s fourth year as King the construction of the temple of the Lord began. And what a project it was. The Temple was 90 feet long, 30 feet wide and 45 feet high. Tens of thousands of people were involved in this seven-year project. He used 4,000 tons of pure gold plus 40,000 tons of silver! The value of this gold and silver would be valued at $60 Billion not counting bronze, iron, precious stones, cedar wood and labor. Just to compare to day. The construction cost of Solomon’s Temple would have been around $100 Billion! Just to compare this to today, the Freedom Tower at the World Trade Center is expected to be completed in 2009 at a cost of $2 billion.
2.Solomon did great things for God.
D.Solomon wrote many good books
1.Solomon is the author of 3 Books; Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon.
Solomon did not finish strong I Kings 11:9-11
A.I think you will agree with me that Solomon had a good start. You could say a “He had a great start!” But he had a lousy finish. He looked like a sure winner. It is this great start that makes it so hard to understand his lousy finish. Solomon did not finish strong, he had a lousy finish. “The Lord was very angry with Solomon, for his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. He had warned Solomon specifically about worshiping other gods, but Solomon did not listen to the Lord’s command. So now the Lord said to him, “Since you have not kept my covenant and have disobeyed my laws, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your servants.” And scripture goes on to say; that if it wasn’t for David, and his loyalty to God, God would have ripped the kingdom out of Solomon’s hands during his own lifetime. But for the sake of David, God would not do it in Solomon’s lifetime but rather in Solomon’s son’s lifetime.
B.This is what I am talking about, finishing strong is more important that starting strong. Solomon went from being God’s man to having God tear the kingdom from his hands. And the only reason God didn’t do it to Solomon directly was because of David not because of the good Solomon had done in the past, you see that didn’t matter and Solomon couldn’t say, “but God I did this and I did this, I wrote three books of the Bible doesn’t that count?” Those things didn’t really matter now, because a good start isn’t enough in the eyes of God. And Solomon was going down, and he was going down hard, because he had a lousy finish.
C.Every one cheers the runners at the start of the race. But the real race is fought and won on the back roads, where not many see and few cheer and that is where many choose to quit and they never make it to hear the cheers at the finish line.
D.Why did disaster strike in the life of Solomon? Because he stopped walking in the ways of the Lord. What did Solomon do that was so bad? Solomon married many foreign women, hundreds, and most of them were not followers of God, they worshiped idols. And these wives led Solomon away from God. He began to worship these false gods. He built altars and shrines to these gods. Solomon had a great start. He had a good father, received good advice, was humble and dependent on God, had a great prayer life, did good works for God, and he wrote three good books. But in the end we find the Lord becoming angry with Solomon and tearing the Kingdom from Him, Why? BECAUSE he no longer walked in the ways of the Lord.
E.He allowed other things in his life to replace God. It happens still today. Many start strong and are passionate about God, but somewhere along the line, God gets replaced by some other idol. Maybe it is pursuit of money, or compromising by dating or marrying a non Christian boyfriend/girlfriend, allowing unforgiveness to stay in your heart. All of these can cause a person who has started strong to “no longer walk in the ways of the Lord” and end up finishing lousy.
Paul was concerned about finishing strong I Cor 9:24-27
A.When Paul came to Christ he blew out of the blocks faster then anyone ever has. But Paul knew that there was more to a race then the start. Listen to his own words, “In a race, everyone runs but only one gets first prize. So run your race to win. To win the contest you must deny yourselves many things that would keep you from doing your best. An athlete goes to all this trouble just to win a blue ribbon or a silver cup, but we do it for a heavenly reward that never disappears. So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step. I fight to win. I’m not just shadow boxing or playing around. Like an athlete I punish my body, treating it roughly, training it to do what it should, not what it wants to. Otherwise I fear that after enlisting others for the race, I myself might be declared unfit and ordered to stand aside.” 1 Cor 9:24-27.
B.Paul was concerned about finishing strong. A good start isn’t enough in the eyes of God. A good start and past victories, do not make up for a lousy finish. If Solomon could not coast in on the waves of his good start, we dare not think that we can either.
C.A good start is important. It is important getting out of the blocks fast. But trophies are given only to those who cross the finish line. The bible is full of stories of men and women who had great starts for God but who did not finish strong.
1.Twelve spies were sent by Moses to spy out the Promised land, and only two finished strong, Caleb and Joshua, the other ten had a lousy finish. They all started strong. They were leaders chosen among the million Israelites. These were Israel’s best and brightest. They weren’t rookies. They had a proven track record. They started strong but had a lousy finish. Numbers 13.
2.Then there was King Saul, Noah’s sons, the high priest Eli. They all started out strong, but did not finish strong.
D.The fact that good men, godly men, faithful men, men like Solomon, the ten spies, Saul, the high priest Eli, Gideon and Samson, the fact that men, who were on fire, men who flew out of the starting blocks, men who had a commanding half time lead, finished poorly, put a godly fear in Paul and it puts a godly fear in me.
So how do we make sure that we finish strong?
A.How can you and I ensure that we cross the finish line with power? We need to have “staying power.”
1.Stay away from things that slow you down. Stay away from people that slow you down.
2.Realize what your weaknesses are and be smart enough to stay away from them. As Paul said, “Flee, youthful lusts.” Rather than think you can handle strong temptation, stay away from it.
3.“Staying Away” from your weak areas will help you to “finish strong.”
1.Don’t get distracted by other things. It is going to take endurance to finish strong. Be willing to deny yourself when you want to quit or give up, tell yourself to keep on pressing on, don’t give up. Remind yourself about the reward is that is waiting for you.
2.It’s endurance that determines whether or not we will finish strong. And endurance is the fruit of godly character. The Christian life is not a 100 yard dash. It’s a marathon. It’s a long race, and long races don’t only require speed. They require grit, guts, determination and finishing power.
D.It is never too late to begin doing what is right. As long as you’re breathing, it is never to late to get back on track. It is never too late to repent from getting side tracked and “stay in” “stay close” “stay away” “stay focused”
E.It’s never too late to confess your sin to the Lord in genuine repentance and receive His forgiveness. You may have messed up and messed big time but the race isn’t over yet. Just because you have fallen down does not mean you still can’t finish strong.