THE 12th AND FINAL ROUND!

UnknownIf you are a regular reader, you know I frequently use athletic and fight-training references in teaching biblical truth, having spent most of my life in these arenas. A calendar year is divided into 12-month increments; if you were to think of those increments as a 12-round fight, today begins this year’s 12th and final round. Today, on December 1st, the bell has rung and you step out into the middle of the ring to begin the final round.

There are two vital questions to ask yourself at this point:

1.  In looking back over the first 11 rounds, what lessons can I learn?

2. How does God want me to finish the fight in this 12th and final round of 2014?

We should regard the past as a school; we learn valuable lessons from the past, but we are never to live there. Scripture repeatedly commands us to examine ourselves, which means we are to “review the tapes.” If you and I could sit in front of your computer screen and watch the first 11 months of 2014 in one long replay, what would we learn from the review? And then, having gleaned what we could from those previous 11 rounds, we could take those lessons and, if God is so pleased to give to us the final month of this year, launch into the 12th and final round. Is there anything you’d like to do differently this month?

I cannot think of a better goal for finishing out this year than to be able to echo the words of the apostle Paul:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  (2 Timothy 4:7)

Christian believer, know this: fighting the good fight does not mean fighting it perfectly. Only Jesus did that. You and I fight imperfectly in every arena of life because we are imperfect people. As I often tell our congregation, the Christian life is not about attaining perfection on this side of the grave, it’s about a new direction. We are heading in a new direction because God has placed us on a new path, to run a new race, and to fight the good fight of faith. And we do all of this, not in our own strength, but in God’s strength, “for it is God who works in [us] to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).

So . . . as you look back at the first 11 rounds of this year, what do you see? What have you learned? What lessons can you take into this final round? There was a time when people focused on finishing well. It wasn’t enough to simply start something; they wanted to bring it to a fruitful close. Well, I hope you’ll allow this message to be an encouragement to you throughout the entire month of December: No matter how this final round goes, “He who began the good work in you will carry it on to completion” (Philippians 1:6). You may feel like Rocky, coming out for this last round beaten and bloodied, just hoping you can “go the distance.” You need not “hope,” because God, who does not lie or change His mind, has promised that He will carry you through to the end.

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;

but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,

they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:29-31)

I pray this promise will help you focus on the good fight before you, knowing that God will fill you with His strength to complete what you started. If you get knocked down along the way, and you view it as your own failure, know that you are already forgiven!

And for those of you bounded out into the middle of the ring for this 12th round, feeling strong because you are running well right now, give glory to God! And then turn and look behind you . . . there is a brother or sister who is tired and weary; they have stumbled and fallen. They need your love and encouragement!

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

rrurunningrwellright now, give glory to God! And then turn and look behind you . . . there is a brother or sister who is tired and weary; they have stumbled and fallen. They need your love and encouragement!

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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