Bad Start, Good Finish by Pastor Abidan Shah

BAD START, GOOD FINISH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Bad Start Good Finish

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:

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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?

  1. 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?

  1. 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?

HOW TO BEHAVE THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON (Part 2)

HOW TO BEHAVE THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

How to behave this Christmas seasonWe are in a mini series from the Book of Romans titled – HOW TO BEHAVE THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON. Christmas can be a time of great joy, excitement, and laughter but it can also be a time of sadness, frustration, and contention. We need help in making this a season of joy. Last Sunday morning we looked at “How to Have Love Without Hypocrisy.” This Sunday morning we go to the next line.

Romans 12:9-13  9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.  10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;  11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;  12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer;  13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.

Overall Background: Before we can jump in and start explaining and applying this passage, we need to remember the principle that I shared last week—Doctrine and Application are interconnected. What you believe and how you behave are linked together. The mistake many Christians make is that they think – here’s my doctrine and here’s my application. First, I’ll get my doctrine straight and then set it aside. Next, I’ll work on my application and try to be a better person. They try it and it doesn’t work – very quickly they see that their love is full of hypocrisy— fake, conditional, selfish, superficial, selective, temporary and temperamental.

What’s the problem? You cannot apply Romans 12-16 without looking back to Romans 1-11. They are interconnected. Romans 1-11 hold the key to apply Romans 12-16.

This morning our text is “Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.” Let me caution you – don’t be took quick to jump in and start applying this passage. On the surface, those words seem very simple; they seem very straightforward. Just hate the bad things and hold on good things. But, try applying that and I promise you that you will fail miserably. You will end up hating what is good and holding on to what is evil. You will end up hating people rather than evil. In fact, you will do the very things that the passage says not to do. What’s the answer? We need to look back to Romans 1-11 and see what it says about evil and good.

Application: We need to hear this message more than ever. We are living in evil days. Not just the world but also the church is confused about what’s evil. We have lost our sense of discernment. There’s something more – God has not called us to just be spectators but later in Romans 12:21 Paul says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” That’s another message but before we can overcome evil with good, we need to understand what’s evil and what’s good.

Before we can hate/abhor evil, what is the face of evil?

There are 2 important mentions of evil between Romans 1-11:

I. THE EVIL IN OTHERS

The first important mention of evil in Romans is in chapter 1 where Paul is describing the wrath of God against those who suppress, hinder, and block the truth of God. Listen to their description in Rom. 1:29-32   29“being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, (the word is poneria = active intent to corrupt) covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers,  30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, (the word is kakon = lack of any good)  disobedient to parents,  31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful;

Background: The first face of evil is people who don’t have anything good in them but they also deliberately reject God and also encourage others to do the same. Keep in mind that all of us are sinners who have rejected God. But, Romans 1:29-32 is describing those who are actively pursuing evil and trying to spread it. Bible tells us about many such evil people. For time sake, let me mention just a few—

  1. Jeroboam Offering Sacrifice by Jean Honoré FragonardJeroboam – the first King of the Northern Kingdom. He was so determined to hang on to his throne, that he talked the eople into not going to Jerusalem to worship. Instead, he set up 2 golden calves in Bethel and Dan and said, “Here are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the Land of Egypt!” I Kings 12:30 said “this thing became a sin.” He rejected what Moses had instituted and created his own sacrificial system. He even became a priest of his own religion. He not only sinned but caused others to sin. In fact, later evil kings were always compared to him.

A man of God came to confront him and Jeroboam stretched out his hand to order his arrest and his hand withered.Jeroboam begged, not for forgiveness but for his arm. The man of God prayed for his healing and he did and his hand was healed. Then Jeroboam invited him to come and stay with him and promised to give him a reward. Listen to his answer in I Kings 13:8-9 “But the man of God said to the king, “If you were to give me half your house, I would not go in with you; nor would I eat bread nor drink water in this place.” Why? Because God told me not to.

2.  Jezebel – She was the daughter of a Phoenician King. When she married King Ahab of Israel, she brought the worship of Baal to Israel’s court. In fact her name itself says it – Jez-e-baal (Baal is the prince). She tried to destroy all God’s prophets. She even tried to get Elijah killed and he had to run for his life. She stole from the innocent (Her husband wanted the vineyard of Naboth – decent man trying to live on his little piece of family land. Jezebel falsely accused Naboth and had him stoned to death. Later she was violently killed as per God’s judgment.

King Herod3.  Herod – He was an Idumean, who ruled over Judea with the help of the Romans. He was a ruthless man. He would spare no efforts to extract taxes from the people. He did everything he could to please Rome. He had no qualms about killing people: He was afraid of the Hasmoneans so he had them all killed; he was afraid of one of his brother-in-laws—Aristobulus , the High Priest; he was afraid of his military leaders so he had 300 of them killed; he was afraid that his two eldest sons were after his throne. So, he had them both killed; and the list goes on.

He even tried to have baby Jesus killed. When the wise men did not return to tell him where Jesus was, he had hundreds of little innocent baby boys killed.

4.  Judas Iscariot – Man who walked with Jesus and heard him preach and change lives. Yet, he betrayed Him for 30 pieces of silver. Listen to what Jesus said about him in Mark 14:21 “The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had never been born.”

Application: How are we to deal with this face of evil? “Abhor what is evil.” It means, “hate it exceedingly.” By the way, this is the only place in biblical Greek that we find that expression. It does not mean hate the person but their actions. Don’t admire the wicked. Don’t try to imitate the “admirable qualities” of the wicked. Proverbs 24:1 “Do not be envious of evil men, Nor desire to be with them;”

Do you have any Jeroboam, Jezebel, Herod, or Judas whom you admire?

1st Evil is those who reject God and actively try to obstruct the truth. We are to reject it.

II. THE EVIL THAT IS WITHIN

The second important mention of evil in Romans is actually in a Christian’s life. Listen to Romans 7:19-21  19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 

Who is Paul referring to? He is referring to the believer who is frustrated with his/her Christian life – “Why do I do things that I don’t want to do? And why do I not do the things that I want to? Is this your experience? Are you going through the same struggle as Paul? Are you frustrated with your sin life? Then, your answer is about to come.

20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 21 I find then a law, that evil (the word is kakon = lack of any good) is present with me, the one who wills to do good.

What is this evil? It is sin. It is the “old man.” It does not have any good in it. It is my Old Self. When you and I are saved, we received a new nature. The Old Man is crucified with Christ. This does not mean that it is eradicated. It is still there as long as we live in this world. As long as you live in this world, there will be a struggle. Evil is not out there. It is in here. There’s nothing about my Old Me that is good. It is selfish, self-centered, self-absorbed. “Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.” The sooner you can see your Old Self as a “wretch” the better.

But don’t stop there – Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.

What is Good? Only what God has placed in me. Listen to Romans 8:10, 13  10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness…13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

How do you cling to what is good? By the Holy Spirit in you.

Let me ask you a few questions:

  • Do you recognize the evil that is in the hearts and minds of people around you?
  • Do you recognize the evil that is present with you?
  • How do you deal with evil? Are you pre-occupied with it? Do you justify it, rationalize it, or blame it on others?
  • Are you clinging to that which is good? To Christ who is in you. To the Holy Spirit who is leading you. To the Word of God that is given to you.
  • Do you know Jesus as your Savior?
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