A new year and decade has begun. I love new beginnings, do you? New calendars, daytimers, journals. It feels good to start fresh. Sometimes, in the excitement of beginning a new venture, we fail to look ahead at the cost, challenges and sacrifices necessary to finish.
I want to tell you a story about a very powerful and good man. The Bible’s second chronicle of Israel’s kings tells about King Asa who “did good and right in the sight of the Lord.” (2 Chronicles 14:2) At one point, his army of 580,000 was attacked by an Ethiopian army that was one million strong; yet Asa called out to the Lord in faith, God intervened and the Israelites were victorious. For many years afterwards, God gave Asa peace and prosperity, and Asa’s heart was blameless all his days (2 Chronicles 15:7).
In the thirty-sixth year of Asa’s reign, Judah once again came under threat. This time, he took matters into his own hands, making a deal for protection with a neighboring nation. Hanani, the prophet rebuked Asa for relying on his own ingenuity rather than God. This made Asa so mad that he threw Hanani in prison and began mistreating others as well. The end of Asa’s life is one of the saddest commentaries on losing the faith: “In the thirty-ninth year of his reign, Asa developed a disease in his feet, and his disease became increasingly severe. Yet even in his disease he didn’t seek the Lord, but the physicians. Asa died in the forty first year of his reign . . .” (2 Chronicles 16:12-13). For 36 years King Asa ruled Judah while seeking the Lord. He began well, but finished poorly. He started out in faith, but ended in self-reliance. It was a tragic ending to an otherwise fruitful life.
Last week I was visiting with a good friend and colleague who recently turned 40. It has just begun to dawn upon him just how fast life moves, how he can hardly believe that he is already at this point in life. I told him that this is the very reason we must sit down and take stock of where we have been and where we are going from here on out. Are you prepared to finish well? Just assuming everything will work out, is an irresponsible position to take.
You must look ahead and pre-determine that you will remain faithful to God despite everything else. There are going to be challenges and adversity—plenty of both. First Peter 4:12 reminds us to “not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you.” Don’t assume you will have time to reflect on these things later. Take action right now! Set aside a time and place—any amount is better than none.
God knows exactly what lies ahead and what temptations will threaten to shipwreck you. Determine how you will follow and obey Christ all the days of your life and what it will be like to finish your life in faith. Make a decision today, to fight against self-reliance until the day you die (this does not mean to be unreliable). Admit that unless God grants you His grace, you have no chance; but also be encouraged that a promise awaits us. Actually, it’s a promise Hanani tried to give Asa when he was reprimanding him. “For the eyes of the Lord search to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” (2 Chronicles 16:9) If only Asa had listened . . . will you?