Today our target to AIM for is the finish line, as we are all seeking to finish well.
Look at these 42 names: (slide)
These are the graduates to glory from this church since I came in 1998.
(Read the list).
Another great encourager for us all is found on the wall of fame as you enter the doors of the fellowship hall from this side. (slide) These are our members who have been married 50 years or more.
Finishing well and fathering well go hand in hand in the Bible.
A father is a great finisher who lives by and successfully passes on the torch of faith to his children. Our seeking mission goes in the direction of God and His kingdom and righteousness. This we seek first. Seeking also turns in the direction of our children when we seek to guide them into the path of life in Christ. This prepares us for our saving mission, that we will look at over the next four weeks.
The earliest chapters of the book of Proverbs depicts a father’s instructions to his children. The father seeks to impart wisdom to them. As he does, notice where his instruction centers: the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, he says.
This morning, on Father’s day, as we take AIM at the target of finishing well, let’s look at two father figures in our Bibles. The first is from the Old Testament. Both the father and the son were kings of Israel. One was a man after God’s own heart, and the other lost his heart for God and turned to idols. I’m talking about the great king David, and his son Solomon.
The lives of David and Solomon are well documented in the pages of 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, and 1&2 Chronicles in our Bibles. These two men, kings over God’s people, lived during what were later known as the golden years of Israel’s history. David was born the seventh, and youngest, son of Jessie, Solomon was the 10th son of David, who had 19 or 20 sons and at least 1 daughter, Tamar.
David was a great king, but, as we see in the Bible, he did not do so well as a father. Solomon was one of David’s brightest sons, faithful to God when he became king. He was a brilliant ruler, builder and administrator. But, his foreign policy of marrying into peaceful relations with other nations became his downfall. God had granted Solomon wisdom, power and enormous wealth. He was a success in every way except… his disobedience to God in marrying many wives led to him turning his heart away from God to serve the gods of his wives and he even built temples for their worship. 1 Kings 11:1-11 tells the story.
Finishing well is a beautiful thing. Almost finishing well is a tragedy. In fact, the New Testament warns us most strongly that it is better never to have known the way of righteousness than having known it, to turn away. Jesus warns in Luke 14 of the man that begins to build, but is not able to finish, or Luke 9:62 the one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not worthy of the kingdom.
David may have messed up along the way, but he repented. He humbled himself under the mighty hand of God and God lifted him up. David’s life goes down as a life well lived in spite of his failures of faith along the way. Acts 13:37 speaks of David, who fulfilled God’s purposes in his own generation. David finished well and on his way out, he tried to commission Solomon to do the same. But, David’s son Solomon, who was privileged with God’s appearing to him twice and blessing him with wisdom, wealth and power, fell away into idolatry. Sadly, we have no record of Solomon ever repenting. It would be nice if the final words of Ecclesiastes, “fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man,” were Solomon’s, but they appear to be an appendage written by a later hand. We can only hope Solomon turned back before it was too late.
Turning to our second Father and son story in the Bible, go with me to the New Testament and glance at these passages noting what they have in common: 1 Cor. 4:17, Philippians 2:22, 1 Timothy 1:2, 2 Timothy 1:2, 2:1. Paul, probably never married, writes these letters referring to Timothy as his son in the faith. Then the two letters he writes to Timothy reveal this personal relationship as Paul is instructing him and encouraging him in the Christian mission to stay the course and finish the race and keep the faith! It is Paul’s deep desire for this, his child in the faith, to carry the torch of faith in Christ all the way to his death and share it with others who will do the same. As far as we know, Timothy died a faithful servant of Christ, probably martyred in Ephesus as he worked for the Lord as a leader of the church there. Just like Paul, his father in the faith, it appears that Timothy finished well.
Timothy was not the only son of Paul that we read about. Titus 1:4 and Philemon 1:10 mention Titus and Onesimus as Paul’s sons in the faith. Again, in each case, Paul takes seriously this fatherly relationship and gives us a great example of fatherhood that builds an enduring faith in one’s children.
Our children are a heritage from the Lord. One of the greatest joys of life is seeing them grow into faithful servants of Christ. Passing the torch of faith onto our children is the highest priority of parenting. It does not matter how fast they run or how far they go in life if they do not carry the torch of faith and run with God, and go the distance with God.
If we do not lead our children to walk with God, the world will lead them away from Him. If we do not teach them to obey the word of God, the world will teach them not to. If we do not impress upon them the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the world will impress them with other things foreign to God’s will and ways.
Finishing well means that we never stop seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness while we have breath in this life. What I want my children to see in me is not a perfect Christian, though for Christ’s sake, I would love to be that, I know I am flawed and very imperfect. What I want my children to see in me as their father is this: By God’s grace, Jesus Christ lives in me and I want our lives to be lived for Him by His grace, as His faithful servants. Nothing else counts like that does. I will love them, no matter what, but my whole hearted desire and longing for them is to be saved and follow the Lord Jesus Christ and enjoy His presence in glory forever. Can anything in this life be more important than that?
For my children to finish well, I must lead the way. I must set the example. I must be able to say, “Follow my example as I follow Christ.” For me to help my children to finish well, I need to stay the course and finish well.
Whether you are a parent or not, God calls you and wants you to finish the course of faith, run the race, keep the faith. You have a heavenly father who sacrificed His only begotten Son for you, so that you could spend eternity with Him in glory and everlasting life.