BAD START, GOOD FINISH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: Does it matter how you start a race? If you ask Usain Bolt, the fastest man on the planet, he’ll say, “Absolutely, it matters.” Back in 2011, he made a false start at the World Championships in South Korea and was disqualified. At the same time, Bolt confesses that he’s a poor starter. So, once the gun goes off, the first 30m is what he calls his “drive phase” where he puts his head down and drives himself forward. After that he goes into his “tall phase” where he gets as straight as possible. It’s time for top speed. At 50m, he glances left and right to see where he is in the race and at 60m he becomes a beast. He gives his everything. The last 15-20m of the race is his strongest. He checks one more time in the final 10m but at this point no one can catch him now. He knows that he’s won. Here’s the point: Yes, it matters how you start the race but no, the start doesn’t ultimately determine how you finish the race. You can have a good finish even with a bad start if you do certain things right along the way. That’s the title of the final message in our family series on the – “BAD START, GOOD FINISH.” In life and marriage it helps when you have a good start but it’s not everything. You may’ve had a bad start but you can still have a good finish if you do certain things right along the way.
Genesis 50 22 So Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he and his father’s household. And Joseph lived one hundred and ten years. 23 Joseph saw Ephraim’s children to the third generation. The children of Machir, the son of Manasseh, were also brought up on Joseph’s knees. 24 And Joseph said to his brethren, “I am dying; but God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” 25 Then Joseph took an oath from the children of Israel, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.” 26 So Joseph died, being one hundred and ten years old; and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.
Question: For the past 9 weeks we’ve been studying the life of Abraham and Sarah from the Book of Genesis. We’ve looked at their good decisions, their bad decisions, and the impact of those decisions on their later generations. In this final message, we’re going to see what things helped this family to finish well. There were so many negatives but what were the positives that gave them a good finish. But before we do that, here are some questions to consider: Do you think that you will finish well? Do you believe that your marriage will finish well? Do you believe that your kids will finish well? Or, do you believe that it’s too late? Do you live in regrets? Have you lost all hope for the future? Are you saved? When you receive Christ, the Holy Spirit comes into your life and brings hope where there is hopelessness. If no hope, then either no Holy Spirit or he’s being quenched.
Context: The passage we just read is the final words to the Book of Genesis. We see Joseph lying on his deathbed giving his final instructions to his family. By the way, twice (verses 22 and 26) it tells us that Joseph was 110 years of age. Why? Because in the Egyptian culture and society, 110 years was considered to be the ideal age for a person to live. Joseph is the picture of a good finish. This is very important because Joseph’s good finish is symbolic of the good finish of the family of Abraham and Sarah. In this final message we’re going to see what helped them have a good finish:
- THEY HAD A CHAIN BREAKER.
If you remember the first message in this series, we looked at Terah, Abraham’s father. Terah was the transitional figure between the first and second age and it was Terah, not Abraham, who left Ur of the Chaldeans. Genesis 11:31 “And Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan…” Terah was the first chain breaker. He had to leave behind a comfortable and successful life, abandon his ancestral gods, and step out into the unknown.
For e.g. My father left Islam and became the chain breaker for us.
Application: Who has been the chain breaker in your life? A father, mother, grandparent, schoolteacher, Pastor, Sunday School teacher, friend, etc. Give them thanks if they’re still living. Sometimes, you have to be your own pioneer. There’s no one who has broken the chain in your life. You have to step out of the comfort zone. You have to break the chain. You have to choose to follow God. If you’re willing, God will give you more than enough grace to be the chain breaker and pioneer for your family.
- THEY FACED THEIR SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET.
In the second message we learnt about an embarrassing secret in the life of Abraham and Sarah. He had made a deal with his wife that everywhere they went she was to say that he was her brother. They did it in Egypt and if that weren’t enough, 25 years later, he did it again in Canaan. Listen to how the King of Gerar spoke to Abraham at 100 years of age. Genesis 20:10 Then Abimelech said to Abraham, “What did you have in view, that you have done this thing?” Translation: “What’s wrong with you?” When confronted, he admitted that Sarah was his half-sister. Later, like father, like son, Isaac did the same with his wife Rebekah and claimed that she was his sister, which, by the way, was a lie. There were other incidents that were just as embarrassing like Sarah offering her maidservant Hagar to Abraham, Jacob ending up with two wives, Judah sleeping with his own daughter-in-law by mistake.
Here’s the principle: There are no perfect families. We all have some skeletons in our family closet. We all have some rotten fruits hanging somewhere on our family tree.
Application: What are you doing with your family skeleton? Are you pretending to be perfect? The more you try to hide your secret, the more it controls your life. Or, do you blame your skeleton for all your mistakes? Turn them over to God today.
- THEY REFUSED TO BE COATTAIL HANGERS.
In a message titled “Keeping Your Kids Out of Hell,” we met Lot, Abraham’s nephew. He attached himself to Abraham in Haran and followed him everywhere he went. He was the proverbial coattail hanger. When there was a conflict between Abraham’s herdsmen and his, Abraham gave him the option to pick which direction he wanted to go and he picked the plain of Jordan towards Sodom and Gomorrah because it reminded him of Egypt. This was more than the terrain. It was the culture he loved. What was the cost? He not only lost his testimony but also his family, including his wife, when God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. I’m sure you also remember the incident of how his daughters had him drunk and slept with him. Even if Abraham and Sarah’s family was not perfect, they were not coattail hangers. They were willing to stay in tents and wait on the city that had foundations. Hebrews 11 9 By faith he (Abraham) dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; 10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
Application: Are you a coattail hanger? How do you make decisions in your life? Do you go after the exciting and the alluring or after those things that please God?
- THEY ACCEPTED THE ROAD OF BROKENNESS.
In a message titled “Facing Old Foes,” we saw how Jacob had to face his brother Esau after 20 years. If you remember, Esau didn’t care for his birthright and had sold it to Jacob who had stolen his rightful blessing from his father Isaac. God never condemned Jacob for that. Later Esau wanted it back but he couldn’t and his last words for Jacob in Genesis 27:41 were “The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” On that fateful night before he came face to face with his brother, Jacob prayed and asked God to deliver him. Instead of giving him a good nights rest and strong arms or sending his angels to fight for him, the pre-incarnate Christ came down and wrestled him all night and when he realized that he couldn’t defeat him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip and it went out of joint. Now a sleep deprived, physically injured, and emotionally spent Jacob hobbled along towards his brother. Genesis 32:31 “Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip.” How did Esau respond? God used Jacob’s brokenness to pour his grace upon him and move Esau’s heart to forgiveness.
Here’s the principle: Those weaknesses that we find to be a hindrance to our growth and prosperity are actually the thorns in the flesh that Paul talks about. They are opportunities for God to pour his grace upon us.
Application: How do you receive the painful events and incidents in your life? Do you realize that those things that you consider to be a hindrance are actually God’s blessings in disguise?
- THEY REFUSED TO LOSE HOPE.
So many other things happened in this family: Simeon and Levi killing the men of Shechem and stealing and enslaving the women and the children; Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery; Judah defrauding his own daughter-in-law and then being tricked by her into sleeping with her. But, this family did not lose hope in the promise that God had made to Abraham that in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed, that they are the carriers of the promise of salvation. Listen again to final words to his family – 24 And Joseph said to his brethren, “I am dying; but God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” 25 Then Joseph took an oath from the children of Israel, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.” Joseph’s end is not the end. It is the promise of a new beginning in the near future. They were words of hope. They were words full of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13 “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Invitation: Do you have this hope for yourself, for your family, for this church, for our community, for our nation, for this world? Do you have the Holy Spirit? Are you saved?