What matters in life is not how you start; but how you finish. This is a universal truth. It is true about sports, business, relationships, and even our spiritual journey. I think it’s safe to say that we all want to finish well.
Take a look at the 2021 ATL Braves. Despite their rocky start with a losing record through July, they finished strong, clinching the World Series title. Fast forward to 2023, a different story unfolded. They started with the best regular season record but faced defeat in the first round. What changed? The way they finished.
The same principle applies in the business world. Remember Blockbuster? What about Nokia phones? They started as giants in their industries but failed to adapt and eventually faded away. Starting strong isn’t enough; it’s about finishing well.
And oh, relationships. We’ve all heard stories of couples who were deeply in love when they first got together. They were so sure that they would be together forever. Only to have their relationship resemble the lyrics of a Taylor Swift song because they did not finish well.
But most importantly, this truth holds immense significance in our spiritual lives. You might have once been on fire for Jesus, your faith burning brightly. But perhaps now, you find yourself feeling spiritually bankrupt. It’s not about how enthusiastically you start your spiritual journey; it’s about how you endure, how you persevere, and how you finish the race set before you.
The Church in Ephesus is a powerful example of how finishing is more important than starting. What’s fascinating is that we can follow the journey of this church throughout the New Testament. The letters to the Ephesians, Timothy, and 1, 2, and 3 John were written to them. As we will see, they started well but unfortunately did not finish well.
How The Church in Ephesus Started
In Acts 19, we witness the fervent beginnings of the Ephesian church, marked by the powerful movement of the Holy Spirit, extraordinary miracles, and a transformed society.
Paul, guided by the Holy Spirit, arrived in Ephesus and shared the Gospel. This city became a hub of explosive growth and Holy Spirit power. The believers were deeply passionate about their newfound faith, wholeheartedly worshiping Jesus and actively engaging with their community.
How The Church in Ephesus Ended
However, by the time we get to Revelation 2, the church has lost its initial zeal, leading to a sobering admonition from Jesus Himself. The church in Ephesus, despite their theological soundness and hard work, had abandoned their first love.
Perhaps you’ve felt this too – not as excited to read your Bible, find yourself praying less often, and worship doesn’t move you anymore. Keep in mind that following Jesus isn’t just about what we do for God; it’s about the relationship we have with Him. If you find your passion for Jesus waning, it’s not Jesus who changed. His love for you remains steadfast, as evidenced by the cross.
How Do We Finish Well?
So, how do we finish well? That is the million-dollar question, right? Thankfully, Revelation 2:5 provides a crucial clue. In this verse, Jesus lovingly instructs the Church in Ephesus to remember when they first believed, to repent of abandoning their first love, and to return to their early practices.
What were these foundational practices? Acts 19:17-20 sheds light on the essence of finishing well.
Wholehearted Worship of Jesus
Firstly, Acts 19:17 teaches us that the people “extolled Jesus.” This emphasizes their wholehearted worship—passionate, sincere adoration for Jesus, magnifying His greatness in every aspect of life.
Wholehearted worship is more than just a Sunday activity; it’s a lifestyle. It means anchoring our lives in genuine adoration and surrender to Jesus. By embracing wholehearted worship, we build a strong foundation for our spiritual journey, allowing God’s grace to transform us from the inside out.
Secondly, Acts 19:18 stresses the importance of genuine confession. This is the courage to acknowledge our shortcomings and be honest both with ourselves and with God.
In the process of acknowledging our flaws and confessing our sins, we deepen our connection with God and our fellow believers. Genuine confession is a testament to our humility and authenticity. It creates space within our faith community where we can support one another. This vulnerability reminds us that we all fall short but are continually embraced by God’s boundless love and forgiveness. It strengthens the bonds of fellowship, allowing us to extend grace to others just as we have received grace from God.
Thirdly, Acts 19:19 highlights true repentance, signifying a change of mind leading to a change of action. True repentance demonstrates a sincere desire to turn away from sin and align ourselves with God’s ways.
Repentance is more than feeling remorse; it’s a decisive change of direction. It involves actively turning away from sin and choosing to walk steadfastly towards God. True repentance propels us forward, empowering us to overcome challenges and strengthen our faith.
Growth in God’s Word
Lastly, Acts 19:20 underscores their growth in the Gospel. This is referencing not just an intellectual understanding but a deep, transformative engagement with God’s Word, leading to spiritual maturity.
The Bible is not just a book; it’s our guide, offering timeless wisdom and guidance. By immersing ourselves in God’s Word, we gain a deeper understanding of His will and purpose for our lives. Studying Scripture equips us with the knowledge and discernment needed to navigate life’s complexities, enabling us to make choices that align with God’s plan.
By embracing these foundational principles—wholehearted worship, genuine confession, true repentance, and continuous growth in the Gospel—we pave the way for us to finish well in our faith journey. Remember, finishing well is about maintaining our passion, acknowledging our mistakes, repenting sincerely, and continuing to grow spiritually.