No one begins the New Year with aspirations to quit. We want to finish the year well, and we want to finish our life course well.
I think of the Apostle Paul’s statement in 2 Timothy 4:7: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” You get the picture of a boxing match with a fighter who stayed in the ring until the end of the fight.
I want to be that fighter. But it won’t happen by accident.
I believe many times we’re defeated simply because we’re naïve. We write out our goals or visualize coming progress, but we forget that we are in a real spiritual battle. This is a fight, not an exercise.
There are two realities about this war of which we must be aware if we are to finish well.
Reality 1: Pride swells in us, so we must daily die to self. Pride causes us to believe that finishing well is automatic. It causes us to exaggerate our ability and underestimate Satan’s fiery darts.
When pride cometh, then cometh shame: But with the lowly is wisdom.—Proverbs 11:12
Reality 2: Christians more known and respected than you and me have not finished well. Victory is never won on autopilot. Solomon warned Rehoboam of moral dangers, yet Solomon himself fell. His words of warning are a sharp reminder that victory is only assured through vigilance and God’s grace.
Lest thou give thine honour unto others…—Proverbs 5:9
With these two realities in my mind over the past couple of weeks, I wrote out seven commitments in my journal—commitments to guard my heart so I can finish well to the glory of God.
Commitment 1: Spend increased time in God’s Word.
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.—2 Timothy 2:15
I don’t have a magical equation for how much time to spend with the Lord to stay out of sin, but I can make a commitment to spend more daily time with the Lord this year than I did last year.
Commitment 2: Make no provision for the flesh.
But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.—Romans 13:14
Satan is always looking for the opportunity to defeat me. I counter his blows before he lands them when I intentionally avoid places, media, people, etc. that would create a temptation for my flesh.
Commitment 3: Maintain a biblical and pure thought life.
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;—2 Corinthians 10:5
Pride begins in our thoughts, and when we allow our thoughts and imagination to go against obedience to Christ, we fall. We must cultivate our mind with Scripture.
Commitment 4: Pray for a humble spirit.
Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.—1 Corinthians 10:12
But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.—James 4:6–7
If there is one quality we need for victory it is a humble spirit to know we can’t succeed without the Lord.
Commitment 5: Cultivate godly relationships.
Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.—Proverbs 27:17
If you’re married, cultivate a relationship with your spouse that includes spiritual oneness and accountability. If you’re single, cultivate a godly friendship centered on Christian fellowship. Develop relationships with spiritual Christians who you know will encourage you to grow in your walk with the Lord. And be that kind of Christian friend for others.
Commitment 6: Increase accountability to a godly partner.
Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.—Ecclesiastes 4:9–10
In addition to cultivating godly friendships, you should plan for intentional accountability. Seek out godly, mature Christians (I’ve posted before on how I select accountability partners), and ask them to help hold you accountable in areas of general Christian integrity and in specific areas where you know you need help.
Commitment 7: Walk in the fear of the Lord.
The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.—Proverbs 8:13
Walk in the awareness of God’s presence every day. In every conversation, in every place you go, in every decision you make, remember the Lord’s presence and conduct yourself and your speech in such a way as to honor Him.
All of us who serve the Lord want in twelve months to be able to look back over the past year and say, “I stayed in the ring, and I’ve finished the year well.” More significantly, as we enter eternity, we want to be able to echo Paul’s statement, I have fought a good fight.”
We don’t fight for personal honor. We stay in the ring for God’s honor, for God’s glory.
May we make and keep the commitments that will allow us to finish well for Him!