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Can I Have a Witness?

Hebrews 12:1-3

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“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, [2] fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. [3] For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”  (NASB) 

Mickey Spillane says, “The most important part of a story is the ending. No one reads a book to get to the middle.”   http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html

The ending is the context for everything that precedes it. Without a strong ending, the value of our lives is cheapened and the potential of our influence is diminished. Our faithfulness must be for a lifetime. We must finish well.

In 2 Timothy 4:6-8, Paul wrote, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. [7] I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; [8] in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (NASB)

Paul finished well, but according to Professor Howard Hendricks of Dallas Theological Seminary, there are 100 or so leaders in the Bible, two-thirds of whom did not finish well.  (Go the Distance) http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html

Leaders like King David.  When King David fell, he brought shame to his entire house and his kingdom. His son Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, squandered Israel's future on foreign wives who introduced their gods to the culture. If Dr. Hendricks is right, if 2/3rds of Biblical leaders did not finish well, then Paul's statement "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;" takes on greater significance.  He was one of the elite of the faith. 

Why was Paul able to finish well?  For one thing, he didn't take the finish line for granted.  Paul knew his frailties, he said, "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief." (1 Tim. 1:15 KJV) Paul knew he was a sinner and he waged a constant battle against the flesh. In Romans 7:15-19 he wrote, "For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. [16] If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. [17] Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. [18] For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. [19] For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do." (KJV)

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