This is the final lesson in "The Maximum Life - Living With
Power and With Purpose" Series. If you have examined your
mission in life, shaped a vision, set goals and secured
right relationships, you need to follow through to the
How do you finish the race? Scripture several times
compares life to a race. Paul says in Acts 20:24, "...if
only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord
Jesus has given me." In 2 Timothy 4 Paul wrote "I have
finished the race, I have kept the faith." Notice the
metaphor, not just of running the race, both times Paul
talked about finishing the race. Life is a marathon not a
If you've ever watched a marathon, in its beginning there's
this huge crowd all clumped together. As the race
progresses, the crowd thins out. Some finish well, others
not so well, and some don't finish at all. That's really
pretty typical of life. It's not how you start in life that
really matters, it's how you finish. What has happened to
you in your life up unto this point is not nearly as
crucial as what you do with your life from this point
forward. It's how you finish that's important. If through
this series or other experiences or teachings you get on
track to live the maximum life, then let me encourage you
to live it until you die. Finish it and claim the
"Run in such a way as to get the prize." (1 Corinthians
9:24) You don't just run. You don't just run aimlessly, you
don't run in mediocrity, if you're going to run, then run
in such a way as to get the prize. As we conclude this
series I hope the acrostic FINISH will help you keep that
course all the way to the finish line.
F. - FOCUS.
If you prepared a vision statement for your life, if
you prepared goals to accomplish that vision, keep
those things in front of you. That's why I stress
writing them down. In your life you need to regularly
sit down and review your values, your visions and your
goals then evaluate "how am I doing". Zig Ziglar said,
"We all need to regularly do a check-up from the neck
up." Plato said, "The unexamined life is not worth
living." Paul said "Examine yourselves to see whether
you're in the faith; test yourselves." (2 Corinthians
13:5) And in Proverbs 4:26, Solomon said "Ponder the
paths that you walk." These great statements can be
summarized in "Regularly looking at your values and
goals and praying about them will make a bigger
difference in your life." Then as you make out your
daily agenda ask the question: Is what I say important
and reflected in my daily time? That's the key to the
maximum life in how you finish the race.
I. - INTERCEPT distractions
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great
cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that
hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and run
with perseverance the race marked out for us." (Hebrews
12:1) The writer says in this race of life to throw off
everything that is going to weight you down. You don't
run a marathon in a suit of armor. You don't enter a
triathlon in an overcoat. You shed anything that would
hold you back, that would hinder. You eliminate the
distractions.N. - NOTE the reward.
What are the things in your life that would distract
you from living the maximum life? Well, thousands of
things. It might be the distraction of a) thinking
about making money; b) wrong relationships; or c) the
idea that busy is better. You just clutter your life
with all these things. There are thousands of things.
But probably the number one thing that hinders most
folks from the maximum life is their past.
So many people are stuck in their past. They're holding
on to the guilt of their own wrongdoing. They're
holding on to the hurt of the wrongs that have been
inflicted on them. If either of these described you,
you're not living the maximum life. Let me remind you,
if you're going to drive down life looking in your
rearview mirror, you're sure to wreck. You've got to
look out in front of you staying focused and not
distracted by what is left behind.
"Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken
hold of it. But one thing I do:" (look at this)
"Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is
ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for
which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
(Philippians 3:13) Paul is remembered for his great
Christian service but he was also a great Christian
persecutor. Paul had plenty to feel guilty about. But
knowing he was forgiven by his Savior, Paul said, "No,
no, I forget the past and I press on. I won't be
manipulated by my memories."
Now you who are in Christ can either rehearse those
guilt feelings or you can release them. If you're going
to live the maximum life, if you're going to finish the
race, let go of the grief, let go of the grudges, let
go of the guilt. They're holding you back, they're
wrecking you and they're only hurting you. Throw aside
your past, your fears, your guilt and your doubts;
intercept those distractions.
Let me ask you a question: Why would we want to live
the maximum life in the first place? Why go all out for
God? Why make the effort? It's really pretty important
because if you can't answer the why, you won't make it
to the finish line. The why determines the how long.
The why will determine the effort you put into it. Why
go to all the trouble we've talked about? Why examine
your values? Why make those goals? Why worry about
relationships?I. - INCORPORATE good habits.
purpose - Remember that God put you on this
earth for specific purposes. "For we are God's
workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians
2:10) God has some things, some good things that He
made us to do. He had a blueprint for us before we were
ever born. Frankly, if you don't fulfill that purpose
it does not matter how much money you make, how many
people answer to you or how many magazines you get your
picture on the cover; if you don't fulfill God's
purposes for your life, you're a failure. That's harsh,
but it's true. Anything that does not do what it's been
designed to do is a failure by definition. The only way
you're going to have any lasting satisfaction and joy
is by fulfilling God's purpose. That's why you make the
ultimate reward. - "Everyone who competes in the
games goes into strict training. They do it to get a
crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown
that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a
man aimlessly..." (1 Corinthians 9:25-26) Do you see
what Paul says? He says, oh yes, the Greek, those folks
in their little Olympics, they run for a stephanotis, a
crown of victory; a little gold medal or something
else. But do you know why we run? It's not to work our
way into heaven because God gave salvation free to all
who claim it through faith, trust and obedience. We
want to run in a way that's honorable to that calling
all the way to the finish line.
Observe, there are three kinds of motivation in life.
a) internal motivation - when you motivate
b) external motivation - when people or things are
catalysts to motivate you.
c) eternal motivation, when a heavenly reward that
never disappears motivates you. The key to finishing
the race in the maximum Christian life is to keep your
eyes on the finish line and what's just on the other
side of it.
"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is
unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is
unseen is eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:18) Paul continues
that thought in the next verse, "Now we know that if
the early tent we live in is destroyed, we have a
building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not
built by human hands." (2 Corinthians 5:1) Do you wake
up every day and think, I'll make the most of my
journey in this tent, but I really have got my eye on
that mansion? The key to persistence is perspective. Do
you want to finish? You've got to concentrate on your
purpose and not your problems. "Obstacles are what you
see when you take your eyes off the goal."
You know we have talked about deliberately and
systematically choosing your course in life, and all
that's true. But frankly, some of you, a lot of you
won't try the steps to the maximum life because you're
thinking that's too much work and too much trouble. But
as you become consistent in your choices and as you
become disciplined in your decisions, it almost becomes
automatic. In other words, you develop good habits.
Frankly, life would be too tedious, it would be too
overwhelming if we had to break down and analyze every
thought and action. What if you had to think about
every breath, inhale and now exhale, think how
terrible. What if you had to think about everything you
went through? God didn't make us that way. He created
us to become creatures of habit.S - STRANGLE discouragement.
Back to the analogy of a marathon runner. When he
starts for that first half-mile or mile, he
concentrates on setting a pace and getting his
breathing in rhythm. But after about a mile, he doesn't
have to think about that anymore. In fact, he will go
miles without thinking about his pace or his breathing.
Most of them let their minds wander a thousand miles
away. Why? Because they have developed a pace and set
good running habits. Then they're actually able to
relax. Inevitably, you will develop habits. Make sure
that you are developing the habits that lead to the
I intentionally use Strangle discouragement. Choke it
before it chokes you. Galatians 6:9 states "Let us not
become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we
will reap a harvest if (see that word) "if we do not
give up." I have circled that "if" word in my Bible.
Folks, discouragement is a deadly enemy of your life
mission. In fact, I'm convinced that discouragement is
the greatest weapon that Satan has because nothing will
render you more ineffective more quickly. The moment
you get serious about living the maximum life to make
your life count for God, the devil will try to
discourage you, especially early on. You've got to push
past the discouragement to make it to the finish
line.H - HOLD on to Christ.
Again using the race analogy, discouragement to me is
like hitting the wall. Have you ever heard that term?
Runners use the term, "hitting the wall," because late
in a distance race there's a point where every part of
the body just begins to scream. It begins to shut down.
The only way a runner gets past the "hitting the wall,"
part is through pure perseverance, and that's true in
the race of life.
I'd like to give you a neat little formula, something
that would instantly make your pain go away and just
say, "Hey don't worry about that." I can't do that.
Perseverance is the key. Somebody once said, "The
secret to success is to outlast your critics." Isn't
that good? Wellington, the great British general, once
said, "The secret of the British army's success is to
fight five minutes longer than the enemy." You don't
measure a man's greatness by his wealth. You don't
measure a man's greatness by his talent. You don't
measure a man's greatness by his education. You measure
a man's greatness by what it takes to discourage him.
Great people are just ordinary people with
extraordinary determination. They just don't quit.
"Therefore, my brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move
you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the
Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is
not in vain." (1 Corinthians 15:58) Can I paraphrase
that for you? "Hang in there. Hang in there, God is
going to reward you for your efforts."
I do want to say this though it's no magic cure, if
you're sitting there right now discouraged and
wondering how life could get any harder, any tougher,
or any worse, be assured that your Savior is sitting
right there with you. If you're going to live the
maximum life, there will be points along that life
where God will test your commitment. Now He doesn't
test it so that He'll know how committed you are. Our
God knows everything. He already knows how committed
you are. He tests your commitment so that you will know
how committed you are.
How are you doing with perseverance? Do you finish? How
do you handle failure? When things don't go right, when
you make a mistake, do you have a little pity party and
say, "Poor me, poor me." Do you complain, do you argue
or do you give up? No! You strangle discouragement
before it strangles you.
If you cooperate, God will give you the power to hold
on. He'll give you the power to complete it. You don't
have to do it alone. He'll help you if you'll
cooperate.Have you examined your life as Paul says in 2
Corinthians 13:5? Have you tested your faith? Are you
beginning at last? Are you well on your way to living the
maximum life? Or are you wallowing in discouragement? Hold
on to Christ. If you are not in Christ, now is the time.
Put your trust and faith in Him by obedience to His gospel
message, His message of reconciliation. lesson # 1303 March 9, 1997
"Being confident of this, that he who began a good work
in you will carry it on to completion until the day of
Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6) "He will keep you
strong to the end so that you will be found blameless
on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians
1:8) No doubt some of you studying this lesson are
going through difficult times right now. You don't feel
like finishing at all. You may feel like you're going
under. You can't figure it out. God is not through with
you. The race is not over. He who began His good work
in you wants to bring it into completion in your life.
Hold on to Christ.
"To this end I labor, struggling with all His energy,
which so powerfully works in me." (Colossians 1:29)
Some of you are just beginning the journey, seriously.
Be assured those who run the race effectively and who
head for the prize and who live the maximum life will
do exceedingly more than all they ever thought or
imagined because of the power of Christ working within