There is something exciting about new beginnings and fresh starts. That first entry in a new journal or calendar infuses new energy and hope into me! Most of us look for a spark as we turn the page to a new year. For example, every January, health clubs are filled with people with great intentions to drop those unwanted pounds and gain better health. I wonder about those percentages by June? Frankly, if we want to start well, we must set our sights on finishing well.
Asa is a good example of someone who started well. He became king of Judah and excelled in the eyes of his subjects, but more importantly “Asa did good and right in the sight of The Lord his God.” (2 Chronicles 14:2). Even when outnumbered three to one, Asa led his army with great dependence on God and won a great victory. His outstanding leadership resulted in renewed faithfulness and national reforms. Asa ruled Judah with confidence and dependence for thirty five years, but then something changed.
The second book of Chronicles records the events (16:1-14). A crisis arose that exposed how Asa’s heart had drifted. Somewhere along the line, he began turning to his own resourcefulness and wealth rather than God’s. Israel’s King Baasha was threatening Judah, but rather than calling out to God, Asa bought off the assistance of an enemy. The rest of the story is both heart-breaking and sobering. Hanani the prophet confronted Asa about his unwillingness to turn to God, but rather than listening with a teachable spirit as he had in the past, Asa threw Hanani in prison. Three years later he developed a severe disease in his feet, yet turned only to his physicians, never back to God. Within two years he was dead.
Asa’s story is not unique. It reflects the multitude of men and women who begin well, but finish badly. All of us have witnessed this tragedy . . . and each of us is capable of following the same path. Where did Asa go wrong after thirty-five years of faithfulness? How can we avoid the foolish choices that led to his demise? With the grace of God and the blessing of good health I might live another thirty-five years. I am excited about the prospects of 2013 until I recall Asa’s ending. Like me, Asa experienced God’s faithfulness in very tangible ways; but after decades, he forgot his starting place and power source.
Reaching professional milestones and accumulating material wealth are some ways we measure the excellence of our work from year to year. Asa accomplished and accumulated much over time, but made the fatal mistake of making too much of those things and too little of the One who had directed him and provided everything. Don’t miss the golden promise camouflaged within this Bible passage. Through Hanani, God said, “. . . the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His . . .” (2 Chronicles 16:9a) I like how Eugene Peterson paraphrased this promise in The Message: “God is always on the alert, constantly on the lookout for people who are totally committed to him.” Let’s begin the New Year by carefully guarding our hearts from self-deception (Proverbs 4:23) and fixing our eyes on the One who will accompany us to the finish line.
Serving Him with you in the marketplace,
Lord, I am thankful for all the ways You have demonstrated Your faithfulness in my life. I have every reason to bank my future on You. I have every reason to count on You to meet my needs and desires. If I attempted to add up the number of times you have protected, provided, guided and blessed me I would run out of time. I know that I am capable of drifting away from You just as Asa did, so help me, God, and keep me in faith. Enable me to finish well and let it begin with my next step.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.”
Paul, the Apostle (near the end of his life)