“Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.” (Gen 2v1-2)
The first chapter of Genesis 1 tells of the account of God’s creation of the earth. As we move into chapter two and the history of what God had created, the Bible pauses to tell us that God “finished the work”. This phrase is of extreme importance to all of us. God had a specific work to do, and then he finished it.
I recently had the strange experience of my ministry at a particular church finishing after 14 years. There is an awful lot of teaching today on vision, doing things for God, being creative, being a pioneer etc. – but in the midst of all that, we must also remember that there comes a point where things finish.
1. All things finish
“When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there.” (Matt 13v53)
In the ministry of Jesus, we see that he had the wonderful ability to finish what the Father wanted Him to do….and then move on. Are we able to do this? Often times, what God has finished, we find ourselves unable to move on from.
a) Sinful things
In the book of 1 Samuel, we read of the prophet giving strict orders to Saul to wipe out the Amalekites. Although Saul started to do this, he failed to finish the job and let the king and some of the sheep and cattle. Samuel rebuked Saul for his failure to finish off killing the enemy. In a strange twist, Saul would end up being killed by an Amalekite! This is a sobering lesson for us in how to deal with sin and carnal habits. We have to take them to the cross and kill them. Those things the Holy Spirit deals with us about, we have to let Him kill them at the cross. Otherwise the thing that we fail to finish will end up finishing us. If we don’t kill sin, it will kill us.
b) Bad experiences
Countless people over the world struggle with this. God had to constantly remind His people “I brought you out of Egypt”, for the very thing that they were delivered from, they kept going back to in their minds. Many people have struggled with hurt, abuse, pain, guilt and negativity. When we came to Christ, those things ended, were finished, we are new creations in Him. But many times we continue to camp around those things instead of doing what Jesus did and “move on”. This is the only way to true freedom.
c) Good things
“When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned” (Acts 12v24)
We like it when bad things finish but we also need to understand that even good things finish. Revivals finish. Mission trips finish. Ministries finish. Relationships finish. Seasons in a particular job or church finish. It doesn’t mean that they these things were wrong, it’s simply understanding that other than our relationship with God, nothing is eternal. Even good things end.
So many people I take on mission, struggle when they return to “normal life”. That experience of being used powerful by God is over, and they hanker after it, wishing they were back there on the crusade field instead of being stuck at a desk at work! But God never intended that mission to last forever. They went, they did what God called them to do. Now it’s finished. Move on, enjoy where God has put you and in due time He will have another special mission for you to do. And guess what? One day that will be over too! All things finish, even wonderful expereinces.
Many Christians struggle because they think that if God gave them a word to start something that means He wants them to do it forever or because He told them to go to a certain place they are to remain there forever. This is just not true.
Often if something appears to be blessed and growing we take it as a sign to just keep doing it. This is not always the case. This world is not our home. All things finish. We cannot afford to be sentimental about things God wants us to move on from. Moses was a great man of God, but God still had to say “Moses my servant is dead”. Don’t camp around what I have buried. Get up and move into the new season I have for you.
2. The importance of finishing
“Tell Archippus: ‘See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.” (Col 4:17)
God has a specific work for each of us to. We hear many times about the importance of responding to the call of God and doing what He has called us to do. However, it is very Biblical, not just to do the work God has for us to do, but to actually finish that work as well. This is something we see over and over again in the life of Jesus:
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, “This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.” (Luke 14v28-30)
There is a real price to pay to finishing. So many in ministry quit early because they get disappointed or frustrated or things aren’t as fun as they first though. Like the man in the parable they then lose their credibility.
Jacob found himself in the unfortunate position of being married to Leah when he wanted to be with Rachel. Sometimes we can find ourselves in a ministry that we don’t want to be doing. But rather than just ditch Leah and marry Rachel, he had to finish the bridal week with Leah first (Gen 29v25-28). This was showing honour by fulfilling his first commitment. It was his willingness to finish his time with Leah that would lead to Judah and eventually Jesus being born. Even if you find yourself unhappy in a ministry or church, don’t just quit. Honour your commitment and finish that season there with honour. Then God will enable you to be fruitful.
In Luke 1, Zachariah gets an amazing word that he and his wife Elizabeth are about to become parents. So many Christians get so excited when God has spoken that they immediately quit what they are doing and move on into the next thing. Although, there can be a sense of that, there is often a season where we have to finish the last thing God has told us to do, before we move into the next season. People who just up and leave every time the Spirit moves them, often never fulfil their potential because they don’t understand that how you end one season is how you will begin another. Zachariah made sure he “finished his time of service” before he went home to lay with his wife (and fulfil God’s word). He had to be faithful before he could be fruitful.
“For the works that the Father has given me to finish – the very works that I am doing” (John 5v36)
“My food,’ said Jesus, ‘is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4v34)
The thing that sustained Jesus, that kept him going through the trials and pressures of ministry, was knowing that one day this ministry would be over and He was determined to reach the finishing line.
There has to be a determination to know what God has called us to do and then to stick with it till we have finished.
Jesus said that it was the finishing, and finishing well that ultimately glorified God (John 17v4). Glory is not found in a wedding but in a marriage. Glory is not found in having a baby but in being a parent. Glory is not found in making a decision but in becoming a disciple.
A failure to complete can kill a thing even if the start is amazing.
3. Finishing well
The hardest part of ministry is not starting or finishing, but the in-between stage.
“I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God” (Rev 3v1-2)
We can easily start out serving God with enthusiasm, and gain a great reputation as a zealous disciple but then become lazy and complacent. God here tries to wake His church up and tells them to get on with what He has called them to do.
“Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” (Gal 3v3)
It’s so easy to start something in the Holy Spirit but then slip into the flesh. We can then be doing something out of duty and obligation and this is when we get upset, grumpy, confused, and afraid, we are no longer serving in grace, and then we quit with a bad attitude. We must make sure we remain “In the Spirit” until the end. We must make sure that our hearts are right and we continue to do the work until we are finished.
“But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed!” (Luke 12v50)
This is the perfect attitude to have. There was an intensity, a zeal, a passion and a sense of purpose in the life of Jesus right till the end. It was the same with Paul.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store 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 longed for his appearing.” (2 Tim 4v7-8)
Like Jesus and Paul, let’s be determined to finish and to finish well!
4. How to finish
We have to know when God is ending something. As we have already mentioned, just because something is going great, doesn’t mean God doesn’t want to end it. Likewise, just because we are going through difficulty doesn’t mean that we are finished. Paul went through real hardship in his apostolic ministry, but he didn’t take that as a sign that he was finished. On the contrary he determined to finish his race (Acts 20v22-24)
So external circumstances can never be the barometer of whether a particular season is through in our lives or not.
We have to hear the voice of God and know that He has declared “it’s finished” over something
The reason why Saul didn’t kill all the Amalekites is because he wanted to be left with the spoils of war. Many times we think that if we allow God to finish a particular ministry we will have nothing left. That is why many pastors won’t hand over a church or leaders won’t hand over a ministry. We think, “If I do that, I’ll be left with nothing”, even though God is telling us it’s over. Some people won’t end a relationship or quit a job that God is telling them to finish, because they would rather settle for average than for nothing.
But God doesn’t work like that. He always has something new for us, and it’s always from glory to glory. But unless we lay down what He is finishing we will never into it.
“Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19v30)
This is the perfect way to finish. Jesus, knew it was over and so he declared it. When God has said something is over, we have to verbalise it and declare “This season is finished”. We then need to release it to the Father in the same way that Jesus gave up His spirit. We have done what He asked us to do, now I release it back to God.
Because Jesus finished what the Father had told Him to do and finished it well, God resurrected Him into a new ministry, a more glorious ministry. God will do the same for us.
5. Problems with finishing
“Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” (Matt 10v23)
Some missions won’t be completed, some prophecies won’t be fulfilled. Some visions won’t be seen. So what? Just get on with it anyway.
Sometimes in ministry, things that we start, we won’t be the ones to finish. David started building the temple but Solomon finished it. This makes a lot of leaders very insecure. We think if God gave us the blueprints, we have to stick around till the end. Not always the case. It’s His work and His Church, not ours.
“Joab son of Zeruiah began to count the men but did not finish. God’s wrath came on Israel on account of this numbering, and the number was not entered in the book of the annals of King David.” (1 Chron 27v24)
Sometimes God doesn’t allow things to be finished because they were never His will in the first place and so He steps in and aborts it. We can’t blame God because of this. We should not have started it in the first place.
Sometimes, like in the book of Ezra, where the building work was on pause for 16 years, we can feel like a particular ministry is on pause. But if it’s God who started it, it will be completed.
6. It is finished
“So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days.” (Neh 6v15)
Some of us have faithfully served God in a particular church, ministry, job or place. You have now reached your 52nd day. Don’t hang around. It’s time to hand back to God what He gave you in the first place, knowing that you have completed it all. Don’t get upset about this. It’s the finishing season! You made it! Now, as you release things back to God, get ready for the new season!
“Before a young woman’s turn came to go in to King Xerxes, she had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics” (Esther 2v12)
Some of you are still in the season of preparation. You are in that time of waiting, knowing that what you are doing now isn’t all that God has for you. I encourage you today to keep serving, keep trusting, stay faithful where you are. When your time of preparation is finished, the King will call for you!
“See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone.” (Song of Songs 2v11)
For some of us, you have gone through a time of barrenness, a time of emptiness and a time of frustration. God declares over you today “It is finished!” Winter is over. Now move on from there and move into a new season in God.
“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philip 1v6)