Saturday, 12 October 2013

Finish well

I read 2 Chronicles chapters 14 to 16 the other day and I was saddened by how tragic the once great King Asa ended. You see this man was the great great-grandson of King David and must have heard stories of how well his ancestor ruled Israel by the power of God. He also started well, he feared God and made sure no idols were allowed in the kingdom. When an enemy nation attacked his kingdom, he cried out to God and God delivered him and the Kingdom of Judah from their more powerful foes. Because he feared God and served Him well, his kingdom enjoyed peace for many years.

Unfortunately in his 36th year reign, he was threatened by another kingdom. And instead of depending on God like he had done before, he trusted human reasoning and decided to become allies with them. For this act, God tried to correct him through Hanani a seer. But the king refused to heed correction, he was so angry he even had him imprisoned. Eventually this once great king who feared God had an infection in his feet; despite the severity of his ailment he still refused to seek God. He died two years later.

King Asa may have started out great, doing wonderful and commendable things, but sadly he didn’t finish well. Many people in the Bible experienced that; King Saul had everything going for him, but he blew it. Judas had the privilege of being with the Messiah but he blew it too. Cain, Esau, the sons of Eli the high priest, Prophet Elisha’s servant Gehazi  and a host of other people. They all started out brilliantly, but didn’t make it through. The sad thing is not that they made mistakes, but that they refused to heed correction and make amends. We are humans, we are not perfect and God knows that. That’s why He will often try to steer us back when we fall. King David is an example of someone who committed great evil; adultery and murder, yet he repented and was restored. Apostle Peter denied the Lord three times, even cursing himself in the process, but he repented and was made the head of the early church.

Why did God restore these people? Because He is a tender loving father who understands
our weaknesses and who wants to help us overcome them when we come back. He has no interest in our continuous misery or destruction. He does not revenge, or pay us back as we deserve. He is happy when we are thriving as His children. When we fall, what should we do? Beat ourselves? Feel like we ‘disappointed’ God? Give up? No, no, no! God loves us too much and He knows we are frail creatures of the dust. We should quickly run back in repentance, knowing He will forgive us. Like the father of the Prodigal Son, God is waiting, with arms stretched out, to welcome us back.

And yes we know God is a loving father who will welcome us back, but we have to try to remain standing. Like we have seen, not everyone who falls may have an opportunity to get back up. In our daily lives, we can emulate the example of Apostle Paul in order to finish well. According to 1 Corinthians 9:27, Paul said “I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.” We can learn a couple of things from him on ending well.

§  Like the verse above, discipline is essential to finishing well. Discipline is not easy, it requires effort and time. Usain Bolt would not be the world famous athlete he is today without discipline. We too will never maximise our potential & talents without discipline. Discipline will be needed to study God’s word for ourselves, it will be required to get up early and commune with God. It will be required in our day to day life and in the decisions/choices we make. It might mean forgoing short-term pleasures or comfort for long term rewards. But it is a small price to pay for the great life we have in store.
§  We must be careful to maintain a steady on-going relationship with God. Not a passive I-know-it-all mentality, but a deep longing for God daily. You can never be too strong to fall. Like Paul said, “if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” - 1 Corinthians 10:12

§  Be careful who your friends and close associates are, remember you are in the world but not of the world. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:33 “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character." The devil hates you passionately and wants to ensure you don’t run your race well. He will often use those closest to you to make suggestions that have the potential of denying you of God’s best. Your friends might say “lighten up, this is the 21st century, everyone is doing it!” The devil will always try to befriend you, but he only wants your downfall. Don’t be deceived like Eve; that ‘appealing’ sin is dangerous! Stay alert!

§  Don’t trust your reasoning, trust God: I can imagine that being a successful king, Asa would have entertained other kings and got to know their perspectives on leading people and maintaining peace. Forming alliances with other kingdoms was one way of fostering peace and it was a common practise then. However this was not God’s plan, the Israelites were not to form alliances with idol-worshipping nations, because they would ultimately ruin them. These alliances were not written in stone, they could be revoked anytime the stronger king felt like it. Because Asa trusted his knowledge instead of God’s guidance, it backfired. As believers we have to trust God, not the society or our feelings, but God. A choice may seem right and may even have worked for others, but remember you are an individual and God knows what is best for you. Remember “there is a way that seems right to man, but the end is destruction” – Proverbs 14:12

§  Listen to correction no matter how brutal it is or who gives it, it’s for your own good. God wouldn’t correct you if He didn’t love you or care about your good. Be humble so you can be exalted again. Don’t disregard correction because you feel the person God sent is not ‘important’ enough. God doesn’t always use our pastors or other ‘annointed’ people, He sometimes uses the most ridiculous things to warn us. In the Bible God even used a donkey to warn stubborn Balaam – Numbers 22:27-33. Don’t be surprised if God uses an unbeliever, or a news item,… just about anything to confirm what your conscience would have been convicting you about. Take the message, don’t focus too much on the messenger.

§  And if you have fallen, please run back to God, only He can restore you again and make you whole. He wants you to thrive and excel in everything. Sin is destructive, only God can restore what was once destroyed. He loves you too much to give up on you. Please don’t give up on yourself and on God. You can be made whole again, it is His will and pleasure that you thrive and be all He intended you to be. 
     Will you let Him?

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