Starting Well, Finishing Well

September 20, 2018
Mark Kolchin

“And behold I am coming quickly, and my reward is with Me to give to every one according to his work.”
Revelations 20:11

I remember as a young boy, the thrill I had every September as I looked forward to the approaching school year. It was not that I despised the summer, it was my favorite time of the year and still is. But knowing that it was coming to an end, my focus shifted from fun and games to an inevitable reality – school. It was exciting indeed; there were new clothes to buy, new shoes and sneakers to get. There were also new school supplies that I just had to have, thanks to the skillful marketing ploys of cunning merchandizers. Even more was the anticipation of the personal letter that would arrive in the mail at the end of August, informing me of where I was to report on the first day of class. Yes, there was real excitement in the air as I geared up for a new school year! I was “raring to go” and determined to get off to a great start.

But it was not too long however before all of that disappeared, along with my enthusiasm. The regular discipline of waking up early each day to catch the bus, the long days of classroom teaching and not quite understanding what my teacher was saying, made my experience laborious to say the least, not to mention the homework (though I will!). Yes, the homework – oh, the homework. The things we had to put aside… because of homework, every student’s nightmare! Still, I knew deep down that if I applied myself, it would eventually pay off.

Lessons for Us

Thinking this through, I wonder if there are not some lessons in this in our walk with Christ. When Paul wrote to the Galatians he reminded them that at the beginning of their Christian lives they ran well, commenting, “who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth” (Gal. 5:7). Apparently, at the start they were passionate in their pursuit to do well, like I was at the beginning of each school year. The “fun and games” were over (1 Pet. 4:3) and now they had to buckle down to begin learning certain disciplines in the school of God. They had indeed run well but somewhere along the line they veered off course and were persuaded to go down a different path. They came under the influence of false teachers who cooled their godly ambition and zeal, and affected their first love. It is can happen to any of us, even as it did for the assembly at Ephesus (Rev. 2:4). The Scriptures identify a number of those who ran well in the beginning of the Christian race (Heb. 12:1), but for one reason or another turned off the path of devotion for Christ, and either slowed down or stopped in their forward progress for Him. Demas is a prime example (2 Tim. 4:10) as were Hymenaeus and Philetus who obviously did not understand what the Teacher was saying (2 Tim. 2:18).

Divine Strategy for Diligent Service

To counter the tendency in our hearts to coast in our spiritual lives, God has provided tremendous examples of diligence and dedication for our consideration. Foremost was the Lord Jesus, who “for the joy that was set before Him, endured the Cross, despised the shame and is now set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12: 1-2). He knew the value of the eternal work He came to do, which was the reason for His cry in Gethsemane, “not my will, but thine be done” (Lk. 22:42). It was perseverance in the purest form. As the hymn says, “My Example is He!”. But there are others also who applied themselves because they knew and looked for the great recompense of reward. There was Caleb who cried out “Give me this mountain” (Josh. 14:12); Othniel, who took the city of Kirjath-Sepher and won Caleb’s daughter in marriage. And then there were David’s mighty men, a collection of would be losers who started out distressed, in debt and discontented (1 Sam. 22:1), but later became devoted to their leader, David. Their grand achievements have been recorded for us in God’s Holy Word as a testimony of their love and loyalty to the one who became captain over them (1 Sam. 22:2; 2 Sam. 23). It should inspire us to be devoted to our Leader and the Captain of our salvation (Heb. 2:10). Time would fail us as it did for the writer of Hebrews to enumerate all that was accomplished by the great heroes of the faith whose names and deeds are forever listed in God’s hall of fame chapter. They embraced the promises and looked ahead to the prize that awaited them with a single focus of starting and finishing well, diligent in learning, and doing their homework in the school of God.

Crowns for the Christian

In Nehemiah 3, one of the last gates to be repaired was the Ham Miphkad gate (v. 31). It was the gate through which those returning from battle were reviewed and rewarded for achievements on the battlefield. They went out through this gate to head into battle and came back to be rewarded. What a picture that is for us! Going out as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, to earnestly contend for the faith and then to come back to our reward. It is just as the Lord Jesus said, “Behold, I come quickly and my reward is with Me” (Rev. 22:11), and also alluded to in Isaiah 40:10. What shape do those rewards come to us if we earn them? Among other things, they come in the form of crowns. These crowns are: the incorruptible crown for a disciplined life (1 Cor. 9:24-27); the crown of life for enduring under trial and for martyrdom (Jas. 1:12; Rev. 2:10); the crown of rejoicing for winning souls (1 Thess. 2:19-20); the crown of righteousness for godly living in the light of the Lord’s imminent return (2 Tim. 4:8); and the crown of glory for helping others live a fruitful life (1 Pet. 5:4). These are divine incentives to press on to the prize set before us and to persevere until our graduation or the Lord’s return, when honors are bestowed at the judgment seat of Christ.

Like it is for many students, starting well is great. But doing well and finishing well is just as important. Don’t forget to keep your eyes on the prize (Phil. 3:14)!

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” 1 Corinthians 15:58