Philippians 1:18b-20, “Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.”
In his book Finishing Strong, author Steve Farrar details what it means to finish strong in your marriage, family, life, and ministry. Within the book, Farrar draws out how a man can finish strong, how a man can avoid the temptation to quit and renounce his responsibilities, and how faithfully following Christ, a man can lead the charge against the gates of Hell.
I first read this book when I was a pastoral resident and student at the Cross Church School of Ministry. My instructor and boss, Dr. Jeff Crawford, led my cohort through this book and at the end of reading and discussing it over the course of several weeks he had us write each other’s names in the back of the book and challenged us to hold each other accountable to finish strong wherever the Lord took us. Since that time, I’ve gone back to that book and looked upon those names of the eleven other men who I served with and thankfully, nearly all of them are continuing on the faith and serving Christ and his Bride. Unfortunately, there are those few who have since left the ministry to pursue worldly pleasures and have seemingly given up on the challenge to finish strong.
Praise God though that we have ample examples of men who we can pattern our lives and ministries after who have finished well. First, and an obvious choice is the Lord Jesus Christ, but it would be practically impossible for us to perfectly follow Christ’s example because he was sinless and we are not.
A second example could be King David, but it’s probably going to be hard for us to relate to a once-great King of Israel. Thankfully though, the Apostle Paul was a normal man who had been put through the proverbial wringer and like us someone who we can pattern our lives after so that we finish strong. Paul, amidst his sinful past and daily temptation to give in to sin, pursued Christ, persevered in Christ, faithfully followed Christ, and gave his life for the sake of the gospel so that all people could hear of the saving knowledge of Jesus as Lord. Throughout his struggles, imprisonments, shipwrecks, persecutions, financial problems, friend betrayals, and his “thorn in the flesh,” Paul maintained his faith and never gave up ministering to those around him, whether they be Gentile or Jew.
In this brief passage, we get a glimpse into the mindset of Paul, and more importantly, we see the necessity for finishing strong in our ministries and lives. Paul, whether or not he was freed from prison or freed from this world, maintained that his purpose and goal was to live so that Christ would be honored in all things. Paul probably would have liked to have been freed from prison so that he could reunite with his beloved friends, spiritual sons in the ministry, and the many churches that he planted, but even amidst this imprisonment, Paul was rejoicing because Christ was being made known. The Lord Jesus was giving him strength to face each new day, and as his imprisonment lingered on his courage and faith in the Lord Jesus grew. Paul knew that no matter what happened that Christ would be with him and that Christ gospel would be proclaimed.
In life or death, Paul’s chief concern was to see people come to saving faith in Jesus Christ. He wanted people to see that Christ was his ultimate source of joy, hope, and strength. Paul wanted his beloved friends and the churches to see that no matter the trials and circumstances that life would bring, they could always trust that Christ would see them through it all.
Paul desired the Philippians to especially see that living for Christ and persevering in the faith was a hallmark of the believer and that amidst persecution, their faith would be sharpened and made strong. This mindset shows great humility and great trust in Christ. It also shows that Paul knew his final destination was secure and that whether he lived or died, Christ would always be with him. This is the message that Paul proclaimed and this is the legacy that he left to the Philippians and to all Christians. Living for Christ, in Paul’s eyes, was worth being imprisoned and worth realizing that he may never be freed from his earthly jail. This is the definition of finishing strong in the Lord. No matter what trials or temptations, come your way when you persevere in Christ, and when you honor Christ in all facets of your life, you will finish strong in your life and ministry. It will not always be pretty and it will not always go as planned, but remember this, rejoice in the Lord always and be strengthened by prayer. Christ will not let you down and Christ will never leave you or forsake you.
Pastor, ministry leader, father, husband, friend know this that you are covered by the blood of Christ and that you can rejoice, and you can have courage because God is on your side. No scheme of hell and no powers and principalities of Satan can ever truly tear you down and remove you from the love of Christ. Living for Christ is the recipe for finishing strong. Know this that through prayer and daily devouring of the Word of God will strengthen your resolve to daily fight for the faith and live for Jesus. I’m praying for you friend. You are loved and you are going to make it.
James Forbis is a graduate of The University of Arkansas, a former Jr. High and High School football coach, and American history teacher. He is completing his M.DIV at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Great Commission Studies and Expository Preaching. He’s a self-proclaimed sweet tea connoisseur and Tex-Mex addict. Most Saturday’s you can find him cheering on his Arkansas Razorbacks, hiking or fishing, or reading up on his favorite subject, the Revolutionary War, or spending time with his wife.