“The bulk of people who failed to finish well in Scripture failed in the last half of their life.”Howard Hendricks
Howard Hendricks presents the thesis that only 30% of people in Scripture finished well. Put another way; they fulfilled their calling. This means that 70% fell short of God’s plan for their lives.
Hendricks points out that the 70% who didn’t live out their calling waivered in the latter half of their lives. He breaks down success into four categories to explain his point:
People who finished their life Running (Hebrews 12:1-3): Abraham, Joshua, Daniel, Paul, Peter, Elizabeth, Anna, a prophet and the daughter of Penuel (see Luke 2). And thanks to my fellow writer friend Terri for adding these amazing people to the list: Phoebe, Junia, Mary, Rahab, the midwives who stood up against the Pharaoh’s commands to kill the Hebrew male babies. Of course, we should also remember that Ruth and Esther finished running.
People who finished Walking (fell short of God’s intention, ramifications of disobedience plagued them, even though they finished with God): David, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah. Today we still see the impact of Sarah’s choices regarding Hagar.
People who finished Limping (on a decline in the later phases of their life): Gideon, Eli, Solomon
People who became Disqualified (strayed completely from their calling): Absalom, Ahab, Saul
Pursuing a Calling
Pursuing a calling is an amazing opportunity to partner with God and thrive in the fullness of your strengths, gifts, and passions. But that doesn’t mean it’s an easy journey to walk without help. In fact, one of the most important lessons we learn throughout Scripture is that those who failed often did so after they chose to stop listening to the wise counsel of mentors or trusted friends.
Those Who Finished Well
- They persevered in difficult situations
- They were compassionate and empathetic
- They lived disciplined lives within the boundaries that God established
- They had a perspective that enabled them to focus on their calling
- They experienced intimacy with Christ and repeated times of inner renewal
- They maintained a positive learning attitude and lifestyle all their lives and were committed to the Lord and his Word as the main source of that learning
How to Finish Well
We need mentors! We need people in our lives who humbly point us to God first and then offer wisdom from their life experiences. In a recent article for Religion News Services, Jonathan Merrit poses the question My own personal Jesus: Can he be trusted? Merrit writes:
Without an objective standard, how does one determine which version of Jesus is true, truer or truest?
When I put this conundrum to (Diana Butler) Bass, she responded like a true religious historian: She cited Jonathan Edwards. In the middle of the First Great Awakening, she said, Edwards was asked how a person can discern if a religious experience was good and wouldn’t lead to something evil.
“Edwards wrote a long tract on this topic, and it’s one of the wisest answers in church history: The way you adjudicate a religious experience is by its results.
Merrit goes on to point out Jonathan “Edwards’ answer doesn’t sound too dissimilar from Jesus’ test for false teachers: ‘You will know them by their fruits. … Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.’: Merrit also rightly points out that “while ‘fruit testing’ can be helpful, it also has its limits. The results that one person calls good, another may consider rotten.”
In fact, Jonathan Edwards himself was a victim of poor “fruit testing” in that he was a slaveholder. He justified his choice by arguing the morality of his boundary in the people he enslaved. Edwards compromised God’s standard for his personal preferences and comforts. This is something we’re all capable of, and it’s why as followers of Jesus, it’s so important we commit to the accountability of a church community that prioritizes biblical literacy in study and action.
We Often Learn Best in Community
The best part of growing in our relationship with God is that we don’t need to do things on our own. In fact, Jesus intentionally sent the first missionaries to share his message in pairs. We learn best in community and when the goal is to finish strong we need all the support we can get.
Ready to Learn More about Discipleship?
As Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), we’re all called to “make disciples of all nations” wherever we live. God invites us to partner with him and live on mission every day, even in the mundane moments of life. We do this when we love people as Jesus taught the disciples to do, without stipulations.
Embracing Holy Interruptions: How Jesus Used Mundane Moments to Love People Deeply is a six-week Bible study that teaches people how to develop a disciple-making movement.
This is not a step-by-step instruction manual.
Jesus modeled using mundane moments to love people, build tension, and point them to God in a way that caused many of them to step from a curiosity about God to a fully surrendered faith. We can adapt his methods and learn from the examples in the Gospels today. This study aims to help people keep their eyes on Jesus and improve their inductive Bible reading skills while also learning to love their neighbors to the best of their ability.
This 6-week study is available in both print and Kindle formats.