Hi church! Each week we highlight what God did last weekend in our community.
Holy Land Trip
Students @ Berea
Pastor’s Note: Start Well Finish Well
As we continue our theme of partnership in the Gospel out of Philippians, the focus turns to another great theme in the book: following good role models (Philippians 3:17). Paul certainly did finish well (2 Timothy 4:7) and is a great example that way. Another great resources on the ‘how to’s of finishing well is found in the lives of the kings of Israel, Jesus’ ancestors according to the flesh (Matthew 1). Some had a rough start but ended well, others began superbly well but faltered in the end. In this respect, there is perhaps no greater contrast than the life of the first king of Israel, Saul, and the second king, David. In 1 Chronicles 10:13-14, the summary of Saul’s life is devastating: he didn’t consult the Lord, he breached faith with the Lord and at the end, the original text says that the Lord ’caused him to die’.*
In contrast David is anointed and recognized by “all Israel” (1 Chronicles 11:1-9). The account in verse 9 concludes that “David became greater and greater for the Lord of hosts was with him.” What was the difference? What caused David to succeed where Saul failed so miserably at life with God? There are multiple reasons but I would like to focus on two foundational ones: the favor of the Lord and the presence of the Lord in His life. The favor of God is God’s divine initiative in our lives. Saul himself experienced it at first. He, like David was set apart and chosen to be king (“anointed”) and he too was endowed with the gift of the Holy Spirit. Favor is this sense of undeserved, an unmerited blessing: both kings received but one spurned it and the other embraced it. The way David experienced favor was how he was chosen to be king. He was the last child of Jesse, overlooked by everyone until Samuel the king maker asked if there was another candidate for the role among Jesse’s sons. And then Jesse happened to remember David, the shepherd boy. God chose that most unlikely of candidates in a culture that favors the first-born for inheritance blessings. This is what the favor of God looked like in David’s life (see 1 Samuel 16).
Seeing and Noticing God’s Favor
Learning to recognize God’s favor in our own lives is the first step to finishing well. What are some the ways you know the Lord has poured out His favor upon you? Take some time to remember. Or maybe it’s hard to recognize His favor in your life right now? Pause and pray and ask the Lord to reveal His favor in your life. He will be faithful to show you.
The second dimension to finishing well is to acknowledge His presence in our life. Whereas Saul ran away from God’s presence in his time of need, (1 Chronicles 10:14), David ran to God: “I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, so I am saved from my enemies” (Psalm 18:3). He chased God’s Presence like it was the most important thing in his life!
David actually didn’t have a perfect record (and no-one does; we all make mistakes, we all sin and blow it from time to time) but he is giving us a key to finishing well: To continue to recognize God’s favor and His presence in our daily lives. Jesus has promised His presence to the very end in this fight to establish the City of God, the Heavenly Jerusalem (see Galatians 4) and His Kingdom as we proclaim the Gospel to ourselves and to our neighbors near and far (Matthew 28:18-20). He is prepared to meet us where we are. The key for us will be to continue (and not give up) recognizing both His favor and His presence in our daily lives. We will finish well too: we will fight the good fight, we will run the race, we will keep the faith. In our partnership in the Gospel together, “He who began a good work in us will bring it to completion at the Day of Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
Practicing being present with God.
This week, take The Five-Minute challenge: Spend 5 minutes in the Psalms (our prayer book). Seek His Presence in His Word five minutes at a time. This may not sound like a lot of time, but we all need to start somewhere and you will be surprised how challenging this small time commitment can be. But it’s all worth it, whether you are in your pre-teens, teens or “later years.” This commitment will mark the beginning of the road to finishing well in our lives with God.
*Saul died in battle; see 1 Chronicles 10:4; 1 Samuel 31:4; for the Amalekite [obviously fabricated] version of Saul’s death, see 2 Samuel 1:10; in 2 Samuel 21:12, the Philistines are responsible for his death, since Saul died in battle against the Philistines. Ultimately though, it was the Lord who allowed Saul to die in order to give the kingdom to David. Note that David uttered a lament in honor of Saul and Jonathan who also died on that day (2 Samuel 1)