“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
2 Timothy 4:7
The great apostle Paul was arguably the most spiritually minded, courageous, fruitful missionary in church history. It is remarkable to think that at one time Paul was a bitter enemy of the church (Acts 8:23; Galatians 1:13). The Bible is filled with examples of people like Paul who started out poorly but finished strong. Nebuchadnezzar was God’s chosen instrument to lead Babylon against His covenant people, a sore punishment for their rebellion and idolatry (Jeremiah 20, 27-28; Acts 7:42-43). The Babylonian king was a brilliant leader and military tactician but he was also a violent and volatile egomaniac (Daniel 3; 4:20-30). He treated those who dared oppose him with extreme cruelty (2 Kings 25:1-21). Nevertheless, God was able to humble this man and bring him to faith. The fourth chapter of Daniel’s prophecy documents his amazing conversion. The chapter ends with Nebuchadnezzar’s celebration of God’s greatness. “Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase” (Daniel 4:37). Manasseh, the king of Judah, was another crazed leader who at first refused to humble himself before God. He brazenly led Judah into religious abomination that included even child sacrifice (2 Chronicles 33:1-10). At long last God humbled the man by causing him to pass through the fires of great affliction. Finally coming to himself, Manasseh sincerely repented of his former wickedness, thereafter striving mightily to lead his people back to genuine worship of the only true God (2 Chronicles 33:10-20). Even men who once walked strong with the Lord had their moments of weakness and apparent apostasy. Peter’s fear of man prompted him to deny the Lord in His great hour of trial (Matthew 26:69-75). Perhaps for the same reason, John Mark abandoned his missionary team (Acts 13:5, 13; 15:37-38). Even so, both men found forgiveness and restoration. Peter was reinstated by the Lord Himself (John 21:15-17), and though his ministry was not flawless (Galatians 2:11-14), Peter faithfully finished his course, eventually enduring martyrdom just as the Lord predicted (John 21:18-19). John Mark also finished strong, receiving a sterling endorsement from none other than the great apostle Paul (2 Timothy 4:11). The greatest example of all has to be the repentant thief who died next to Jesus (Luke 23:39-42). In his last remaining moments he rebuked blasphemy, defended Jesus and confessed His own guilt. He acknowledged the Lordship of Christ and went to receive His reward. Despite our past mistakes and regrets, let us also finish strong. At the end of our pilgrimage may the Good Shepherd say to us, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21). O Lord, may it be so!
God bless and encourage you all dear saints,