Two Sundays ago, Wai Jia and I had the opportunity to preach one at Generations, Cornerstone Community Church’s Youth Service before we return to Canada. Every time I preached is a very special occasion. It is a time to share God’s Word and a time to be used by God as His mouth piece.
Unlike my previous sermons where I used a lot of my own experiences, this time I focused primarily on the Bible. Knowing that this is the last time we will peach to the youth, I wanted to make sure that what I shared will help them to grow in Christ.
The sermon is entitled, Finishing Strong.
Good afternoon, everyone. We are so glad to be at Generations. This will be our last time preaching to you for a while as we are returning to Canada and USA end of this month. We wanted to share a message that will help you grow in Christ.
Today, the title of our sermon is Finishing Strong. Being in Generations, I know you start this race in Christ well. We always enjoyed worshiping and preaching with you because you are passionate to follow Jesus. But the key is to finish well. In all my triathlon races, my goal is always making sure I finished my race strong. No one participate on a race to quit right?
This is the same with following Jesus and being a Christian. What is finishing strong?
In 2 Timothy 4:7, Paul wrote:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
Paul knew he was going to die but he wasn’t sad. He was joyful because he finished the race and fought the good fight.
You don’t finish strong by cruising to the end of the finish line. If you see any race, it is the end is where it makes all the difference. This is the same for our spiritual race. We have to remain focus and remain steady.
Why should we want to finish strong? What if we started strong and finish weak?
This is what Jesus has to say about that in Luke 14:28-30:
For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’?
I don’t want anyone of you and myself to be that man. Who started building the tower and not able to finish. That’s humiliating! This is the same as we might as well don’t start.
What does it mean to finish strong then? What does it look like?
The key for all of us at the end is for Jesus to called us good and faithful servants like in Matthew 25:23.
In the glimpse of eternity, this life on earth is so short! Notice, after Jesus praised the servant for being a good steward, Jesus told him he will be ruler of many things and the joy of the Lord. This is the longing in our heart. That Jesus is proud of what we are doing.
Today I will share three points to help us finish strong. The first point is crucifying our flesh.
In Galatians 5:24, it says, and those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
What is the flesh? Our physical body? In Jesus’ eyes it is:
For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornication, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.Matthew 15:19
Do you have someone that irritates you so much that you get angry every time you see him? We either blame him or blame Satan for causing us to anger (sin). But the reality is that it is the nature of our heart that causes us to sin. These circumstances only reveal our sinful nature. The more you walk with Jesus, the Holy Spirit will slowly iron these things out of you. The flesh and the Spirit cannot co-exist. Like oil and water. It is either the Spirit or the flesh who reigns in your life. What does it mean to crucify our flesh?
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:26-27:
Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
Paul doesn’t blame others or the church or his leaders. He knows that it is only him who is responsible for disciplining his own body into subjection. Don’t think just because you are serving in church or involve in some big ministry that you will be exempted from crucifying your flesh. Paul has the biggest ministry we ever known. He was planting churches and preaching the Gospel everywhere. He was so filled with the Holy Spirit that he could raise people from the dead, speak in tongues, healings, visions and dreams. But yet, he didn’t say well I am so useful in God’s Kingdom I am sure God doesn’t mind my sinful desire. NO. He said, I discipline my body so after I have preached to others, I myself do not become disqualified.
Crucifying your flesh takes time. Crucifixion is slow, painful and suffering death. The Roman Empire use crucifixion only for the worst criminal because they want to make them suffer. This is the same for us when we crucify our flesh. The first time you try, it will feel painful and you might not get it right. Like not getting angry at someone irritating you. But just because you failed, it doesn’t mean you should quit. Some of you live with so much guilt because of your sins. I want to tell you don’t beat yourself up for your sins. Jesus who died for your sins to restore you back to Him, He can help you crucify your flesh. Yes, you sin. You repent, ask God for forgiveness and ask for the Holy Spirit to help you try again. The more you try, the better you get at crucifying you flesh.
When I first do triathlon, I couldn’t swim more than two laps. For the Ironman triathlon I had to swim 50 laps. So I needed help. I joined a swimming class and they split us up into three groups: the fast swimmers, the slow swimmers and myself. I was so bad that the coach put me in my own lane.
During the class, he will talk to each group to work on techniques and how to get better strokes. For me? He just told me to kick. I was awful. But I didn’t quit.
I was so determined to learn to swim I would go to the pool two times a day. 6 am in the morning and after work. I go to the pool so often I showered more there than at home. I got to the pool just to do drills. Kick. Kick. Kick. Do you think the drills are fun? NO! But I do them because I know that’s the only way to get better. I always joke that the reason why there are two lifeguards in the pool is because they are afraid I am going to drown. Five months later, I swim 10 laps nonstop. That was my victory. At that point, I knew I could swim 50 laps.
Why am I telling this? Crucifying your flesh is like how I learn to swim. You might not be joyful doing it but the outcome is good for you. Second, you can’t do it on your own. Without a coach telling me to lift my elbows and to kick properly, I can’t correct my own strokes. This is the same as crucifying your flesh. We need the Holy Spirit to reveal to us what we need to crucify.
Do you think your jealousy, you anger, your lust, your cheating, your envy will go away if you don’t crucify them? No way. They stay with you and fester the older you grow. But once you overcome and have victory through the Holy Spirit, you will have victory over that sin forever.
So what are other fleshly desire that you need to kill? How about not yelling at your parents and honoring them even when they are not right. Or swearing, lying, cursing. Just take a look at what you post on the internet, Facebook, Snapchat, Whatsapp lately. Are you comfortable showing them to your leader? If you are not, clearly your heart is not right. Sometime we think we are so smart, like on Snapchat, no one will ever find out what we post or we can stay anonymous online. But God ain’t blind. There will be a day when He will hold us accountable to everything we post.
That’s point one. Now the second point to finishing strong, what is it? After crucifying our flesh, what do we need to do?
The second point is surrendering.
If you’ve been a Christian and you never once had to lay down your rights, there’s something wrong with your walk with Jesus. When we say, Jesus is my Lord and my Savior, we mean He is our Lord in all aspect of our lives. All means everything.
This is what Jesus says about surrendering, let’s go to John 21:18-19:
… when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.”
Peter denied Jesus three times and Jesus is speaking to Peter after Jesus resurrected. Isn’t that ironic? The older you become, the more independence you should have right? You tell your parents I am this age and I can make my own decisions. But following Jesus is the opposite. When you are a baby Christian, you can do anything you want. But the more you walk with Jesus, the more you draw close to Him, the more the Holy Spirit will take you and guide you. The more He reveal to some areas of you life that doesn’t glorify Him. You want to go left but the Holy Spirit is prompting you to go right. What do you do? Do you surrender and obey the Holy Spirit? You want to scold someone in your cell for messing up but instead the Holy Spirit is telling you to encourage him. What do you do? These crossroads are where you know whether you are lord or Jesus is the Lord over your life.
Surrendering also means laying down my expectations of what it means to do God’s work.
From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.
Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!”
But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.Matthew 16:21-24
We have pre-conceived notions of what we expect God to be. Sometimes we are egotistic in our own ways we don’t even ask God about what He desires. Why did Peter rebuke Jesus? This passage comes just after Peter told Jesus He is the Messiah, the Christ. In Peter eyes, there’s no way the Messiah will be killed. The disciples were all waiting for the Messiah to come and take Jerusalem back from the Roman Empire. They were expecting Jesus to be the triumphant King because He is the Messiah, the Savior. They wanted Jesus to overthrow the Pharisees and the chief priests. How can Jesus tell them He will be killed?
A dead Messiah is a failed Messiah. How can a dead Savior save anyone?
That was what the disciples expected God to do. They didn’t understand what God is doing and that Jesus was to come as a sacrifice for all mankind. They only mindful of the things of man and not the things of God.
Sometimes we are so busy with our own ministry that we only think of our ministry as MINE ministry. And we are so selfish to hang onto our own ministry we don’t even think about others. This is pride and it goes against what God desires.
Therefore, I say you have to surrender everything, even your own expectations of doing God’s Work.
How can you apply this?
First thing first, in everything you do, ask God first. This means choosing schools, courses and careers and even ministry. Will you give up a good school because God wants you to go somewhere else for His Kingdom? That’s surrendering.
Just because you are gifted at something doesn’t mean this is where God is calling you. God is not looking for those who have talents. He is looking at someone who is willing to surrender everything to follow Him. We think talents and gifting are so important. Look at the twelve disciples. Most of them are just fishermen. They are not highly educated. They are not your elites. God used them because they gave up all and depend whole-heartedly on God.
Look at Moses, why did God chose Moses? Because he can speak? No, he’s stutters. Because of his youth? He was 80! But because he surrendered and was willing to follow God, God used Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egyptian captivity.
To summarize point two, surrendering to Jesus is instead of telling God what I want to do, we go to God and asks Him what does He wants me to do EVEN if I have to lay down my rights, I will do it.
This leads me to the last point, after crucifying your flesh and surrendering your rights….what do we have left? To become a bondservant of God.
Paul wrote this in Philippians 2:5-8:
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
Jesus took the form of a bondservant. That is the mindset Paul is telling us to have.
What is a bondservant?
Bondservant is basically a slave. It is one who belongs to another. It is voluntarily.
All of these points I spoke you are voluntarily. I can’t make you crucify your flesh if you don’t want to. I can’t make your surrender your rights if you hang on to them. Your leaders can’t make you. Jesus never demand anyone to follow Him. He asks. He never begs. Even when people leave Him, He doesn’t chase after Him.
Paul wrote that we should have the same mindset as Jesus Christ, take on a form of a servant. What does that mean? Here are three qualities of a bondservant.
The first one is humility. How do you know if you are humble? The first is how you relate to one another.
In Philippians 2:3, Paul wrote this:
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.
Like in a cell, do you always feel you must get your way or make your point across. Do you think you are better than everyone else? Do you treat others better than you do to yourself?
The next quality related to humility is meekness. In the Bible, meekness is related to a lamb. When you think of a lamb, you think of a very gentle animal. It is not aggressive or demanding.
Jesus is described like a lamb in Isaiah 53:7:
He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
Do you always have to fight for your rights? If you don’t, fight, you lose, right? Jesus never fought back. He was silent. Look at what the Bible says about fighting back:
Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,”says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.Romans 12:19-21
Have you ever got in a situation where you want to fight back and you hold yourself back. Have you try to overcome evil with good. You bless your enemies instead of curse. This is meekness.
This world doesn’t value meekness. Look at Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Wolverine, just name any hero. Are they meek? No way! Think of anyone who is in K Pop or J Pop or in Hollywood. Are they meek? Most likely not. But this is what God values. He said in the Beatitudes, blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
For me, meekness is hard, especially on Facebook. Sometimes I tell my wife, I am so angry about what others write on Facebook I just want to tell them off. I have a friend from Secondary School who always comment on my posts about Christianity. He always post nasty things about Christians and I am so ready to write back and to explain everything and proof him wrong. But my wife, being holier, told me not to write back in anger. So I pray to the Holy Spirit on what should I do. The response I got from God was instead of writing back I should pray for his salvation? So every time I think about him and how much he hurt me with those comments, I just pray for God to open his heart and intercede on his behalf. Now I am not saying you shouldn’t respond back. Every situation is different. The key is in your attitude and your heart.
The last quality is obedience. A servant must do what his master tell him to do. This is key. There’s no point in sitting and listening to a sermon and don’t do anything about it. That’s a waste of time. A true sign of following Jesus is that you obey. You might not agree or you might not want to. Just like Jesus, part of Him doesn’t want to take the cross. It is painful. But He chose to do it bc He obeyed His Father.
Before taking the cross, Jesus prayed.
O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me, nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.Matt 26:39
Not our will but as You will.
So what did we get from all of this? What did we get for being humble, for being meek and for obeying. If we go back to the Philippians passage:
Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every namePhillippians 2:9
God exalt those who are humble. God leads us to situation where we have to humble ourselves. But He won’t do it for us. Only you can humble yourself. And when we humble ourselves. God will exalt us. Of course, we won’t be exalted as Jesus did because Jesus is our Lord and Savior.
The problem we have is that we often get this wrong. We think we must exalt ourselves or no one will know what we can do. Like flash our CVs, show what we can do and proof ourselves to the top. This is what the world does right? But not with following Jesus. He said if you want to be the top, you have to go down and serve.
So how do we finish strong?
We crucify our flesh, we surrender our rights and carry our crosses and we become a bondservant by being humble, focus on meekness and be total obedience.
We all desire and expect a big move from God. This is not wrong but we cannot neglect carrying our crosses and denying ourselves daily. It is these little day by day small obedience that changes your heart. From the outside you don’t look different but if you keep at doing this, I can guarantee you in a few years when you look back, you will realize how much you have changed in Christ.
When I first follow Jesus, I never expected any of this. At that time I remembered I want to do more triathlon and Ironman races. But once I started to follow Jesus, I tasted His goodness. The more I followed Him, the more I wanted to follow Him. Crucifying my flesh, surrendering my rights and being a bondservant, oh yeah, I want it all. Why? Because I want at the end of my life, Jesus can call me a good and faithful servant. That’s really what it matters in life. Everything I do, all the races, all the medals and all that fanfare ain’t that important. They come and go. But bringing joy to the Father by doing His Will and hitting His calling, that will last forever. For that, I am willing to go all out.
Finishing strong ain’t just for a selected few. It is for those who wanted Jesus so badly. God brought us on this journey and we are still figuring out what it means to finish strong. As He leads us to the next adventure, I am going to invite my wife to come up and share our story on how God is teaching us to finish strong.