Jentezen Franklin - How To Finish Stronger Than You Started
I want you to go to Matthew 21, and I'll begin reading with Verse 28, and I believe the Lord is going to speak to you today in a personal way. "But what do you think"? Jesus speaking. "But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, 'Son, go, work today in my vineyard,' and he answered and said, 'I will not,' but afterward he regretted it and he went". Verse 30, "Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, 'I will go, sir,' but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father? They said to Him, 'The first.' Jesus said to them," they were pharisees. They were there with vicious intent, and He said, "'Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots will enter the kingdom of God before you'".
Wow! I thought Jesus was a sweet, kind, "For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him". What a powerful lesson Jesus taught about two sons and their father. Most of the time we think about the two sons of the Prodigal story of Luke 15, and this is the forgotten sons and the father, but this is a powerful lesson that I'm gonna share with you today from this that I want to try to really get it into your soul, into your spirit. I'm preaching today on "Finishing Stronger Than You Started" because you can do better than you're doing right now. You can do more than you're doing right now. You can finish stronger than you are right now. The two sons represent two directions that life can take you. The father said to both of the sons, "Go into the field and work".
The father represents God. The field is the world, the harvest field, and he said to his sons, "Go into the field and work". And the one son said, "I will go," but remarkably the Bible said, "but he went not". The King James put it that way. He said, "I'll do it, dad. I'm in. Let's go". But when the dad looked out, he wasn't in the field. The second boy had an attitude, and he said, "I will not go," but the Scripture said later he repented and did the will of the father.
Two pathways. Two responsibilities for every person under the sound of my voice at all of our campuses and online and by television. You have two possibilities. The one son is an example of someone who started out well. I'll do it. I'm in. I'll serve you. I'll work in the church. I'll work in the field. I'll work in the harvest. I'll use my talents, my gifts, my resources. I'm gonna do the will of God. I'm gonna be a part of the harvest. I'm gonna sell my life out for your work and your will. He started out well with right intentions beginning the right way. But then along the way something happened. He began to be distracted. He made the promise he started, but along the way he lost his way and somehow he fell away. There's more than one way to get lost. The Bible in Luke 15 talks about three lost things. It shows us the three ways that people can be lost.
There was the lost sheep, there was the lost son, and there was the lost coin. Not all are the same kind of loss. The first one, the lost sheep was lost because it wandered away. It didn't intend to get lost. it just started nibbling, and it got away and got some distance between the sheep and the shepherd, and it just started wandering further and further away, and somehow, it looked up and all the other sheep were gone and everything looked confused, and it was lost and it was in wolf country and it didn't even know how it got there. It's one thing, you know, when you do something intentional, but there are people today who are lost who have just wandered off. They go to church. They're sheep. They're not a goat. It's still a sheep. It's possible for sheep to wander, to drift further and further and further all the way out onto the turf of the enemy.
Have you ever been lost? Now, many of you young people won't understand this, but back before they had GPS we used to literally use maps to tell us how to get to places. It was the craziest thing. I know. You're used to Siri. You said give me directions, and it will tell you exactly how. She will. Well, before Siri, I had Cherise. We used to travel in our car as evangelists all over this Nation. Every night of the week we'd preach revival after revival after revival after revival, and I preached in almost every state of this Nation, and we'd get in the car and go to another one and go to another one and go to another one, who was Cherise because that was her job. My job was to drive. Her job was to tell me.
So, I'm used to a woman telling me how to drive my car. But she fell asleep, and I didn't know it, but I was drifting further. Somewhere I took a wrong turn, and we drove for hours and when she woke up, she said, "Where are we? Why are we in," I forget where it was, South Carolina, when we were supposed to be in North Carolina or wherever it was we were going. I don't remember, but it was a whole different state, and she said, "What have you done"? And I remember when we finally got back on the right interstate it was the most wonderful feeling to know that we were back going in the right direction. Well, let me tell you. That's how a lost sheep feels. A lost sheep got lost wandering away. It didn't mean to get lost. They don't ever like being lost, and that's how you know if you're a sheep or not.
If you like being lost, if you like your world and your sin and all your stuff that you're doing more than you love the church, let me help you out. You're either a sheep or a goat, Jesus said, and if you're a sheep, you don't like being lost, and when you hear a sermon like this you wanna get back quick to the shepherd's arms, but people who are not saved, they're not sheep. They don't want to get back. They have no intentions of getting back. They're okay living their life far from God. That means you're not a sheep. You're a goat, and unless you repent, you're going to die and go to hell. We need to hear straight preaching. We don't have time You're either a sheep or a goat and if something in your nature... here's how you know you're a sheep. Something in you if you feel yourself drifting and you hear the call of the shepherd, it instantly even though I have drifted, even though I have gone far away, even though I shouldn't be over here nibbling in this pasture where there's wolves, I wanna get back. something is wrong with your soul.
Now watch this. The lost sheep wandered away, but the lost son walked away. It was intentional. It wasn't an accident. He knew what he was doing. He said, "Give me my inheritance. I know where I'm going. I know what I'm doing". He went to a foreign countries. "I choose to do this. I'm not wandering away. I'm not wanting to get back on the right path. I'm not missing going in the right direction. I like where I am. I join myself to this foreign country. This is my new world. These are my new people. I don't want that. I don't want the church". That's the difference between the lost sheep. It wandered away, but was glad to get back. The other one, the lost son, walked away. It's interesting that the shepherd was commanded to go get the lost sheep, but the father never leaves and goes to get the lost son.
Now, listen to me carefully because you can't find a lost son. He has to find himself. You can't find a lost daughter who's been raised in this. They have to find themselves. There's not enough talking you can do. And it was when the prodigal was in the pig pen the Bible says these amazing words in Luke 15, "He came to himself". And when he found and came to himself, then he said, "I need to go home to the father's house". But never did the father go after the son until he saw him coming home and when he started coming home, he ran with the coat, with the ring, with the shoes, and covered his disgrace and brought him back and said, "Look what God has done. My son is home. Kill the fatted calf. Let's have a party, and let's never talk about what happened again". I don't know who I'm preaching to, but I'm praying today that you will come to yourself. You were not born to be a drug addict, an alcoholic, somebody out in the world. You are called and chosen of God, and you can come home today. You're welcome home today. You need to turn around and run home today.
And then there's the lost coin. So, you've got the sheep that wandered away and you've got the son that walked away, but then you've got the lost coin, and it was lost and it didn't go anywhere. It was lost in the house. The Bible said that there was a woman who lost the coin in the house. It was there in the house. It stayed right here. We think everybody who sits on these seats are saved and going to heaven 'cause they came to church, but you can be in the house and be lost. You can be in a Gospel preaching church where the Spirit of God is moving, and you can be as lost as a goose in a snow storm. You can be lost sitting in house playing religious games. Many of you are cold and indifferent and you're straying and you're going further, and you never get stirred up about it.
The Bible said the woman took the broom and started sweeping the house stirring the dust up trying to find the coin because the coin was there. It had not lost its value. It was out of circulation. I'm praying that the Holy Spirit will bring His broom into this church, into my temple, into your temple, into our homes and into our families, and those of us who are sitting here and we're still valuable, but we're out of circulation. We really aren't praising God and loving God like we ought to. Lord, sweep the dirt out. Sweep the world out. Sweep ungodliness out until we begin to shine again, and God can reach down and pick us up and say I can use you now that you've been cleansed. Clap your hands and say I want it, Lord. Somebody shout I'm gonna finish strong. Say it again. Get the dirt out of me. I'm gonna finish strong. I haven't come this far to be covered up in nastiness. I'm done with the nasty life. I want Jesus in the final hour like I've never wanted Him before. Woo! Hallelujah!
Now, I close this little sermon with the second son. He's the late bloomer. The Bible said the other boy, now the boy who started out strong is never seen again. But then there was that other son. When his dad said go work in the field, he didn't play and he didn't pretend. He said I'm not gonna do it. He refused the call of his father. He said that's too much of an intrusion on my plans. I don't want that life. I want my own life. In other words, he stumbled out of the starting gate. He ran with the wrong crowd; fornicators, idolaters, thieves, drunkards. And I'm preaching to people today, and maybe you didn't start out well. Maybe you stumbled at the gate. Maybe you weren't raised in a Christian home. Maybe you were raised a Muslim. Maybe you were raised by some other faith or no faith by atheist parents, and you didn't' start out well or maybe you started and something happened and you stumbled at the gate. Maybe a preacher hurt you or maybe somebody did something and you thought they're hypocrites, and I'm done with the church.
You may have stumbled at the gate, but I came with a word for you today. You can start bad and end good. That's what this story proves. The Bible said in Habakkuk, "Your latter end shall be greater than your former". Just because you had a bad start, just because your dad left you or your mother wasn't there and you weren't raised in a Christian home, just because you had a bad start doesn't mean that you have to be that the rest of your life. Just because everybody in your family had an addiction and now you feel that grip on your life, it doesn't mean that you have to stay that way. You can have a bad start but have a great ending today. Things happen.
You say, well, Pastor, how does that happen in my life? Something happened to that boy who started bad and without his dad chasing him and without anybody, he came to a place in his life where he said I know what I'm here for now. I've tried all of this, and it doesn't satisfy. I know where peace is. I know where joy is. I know where, I know where I can lose the guilt and the condemnation and the shame and the disgrace on my life. I'm just gonna get out there in the field and surrender to the will of the Father. I'm just gonna do what I can do for the glory of God, and suddenly, Jesus Himself says, "Which one was greater? The one who said it and talked it and started it but fell away, or the one who got a bad start, had a bad start and got into a lot of bad stuff, ran with a lot of bad people, got in all kinds of addictions and problems, but boy they end up right in the plan of God". Jesus said, "That one was the greatest".
And he turned to the pharisees, and He said, "Harlots and fornicators and tax collectors," which they were known for their thievery and dishonesty under that system. He said, "They will enter into heaven, but you pharisees who talk the talk, you're lost right in the house. You're not gonna make it, but all those people who had a bad start that they brought to me their brokenness and their failure and their disgrace, I'm gonna give them grace, and they'll enter the kingdom of heaven, and I'll use them a whole lot quicker before I would ever use somebody like you who's lost in the house. You still have value, but you're out of circulation".
God help us to have such a spiritual temperature in this church that people cannot sit with dirt all over them in the house and feel comfortable. I know this is a strong message, but we need strong preaching right now. How many of you are so glad and you'd be honest enough to admit how many of you feel like you just kind of had a bad start? You didn't know. You didn't know. The only time you saw people raise their hand in church was when they were voting a preacher out, and you got so disgusted with that you left, and then you started down another road, and then you got to an end to yourself, and the Lord brought you back and now here you are. How many of you can truly say I started bad, but I'm gonna end good? Let me see. How many of you have made up your mind that you're not gonna sit in the dust and let dust collect in you in the house of God when you got gifts and talents and the world is dying going to hell?
I've got something. I can park a car. I can volunteer. I can lead a small group. I can sing in the choir. I can give. I can do something for the harvest to be reached in this final hour when the bridegroom is about to come. Wonder how many of you, the oil is draining out and the fire is barely flickering right at this momentous hour just when the bridegroom is about to step out and blow the trumpet, and we who are alive and remain. It's not enough to start out on fire. You have to be alive and remain alive.
Remain stirred up. Remain after God. Remain with oil in your lamp and fire in your soul. We're gonna be called up together with those who have died to meet the Lord in there. He's coming. You just keep on smirking. He's coming. You just keep on laughing. You just go I've heard that... You're gonna be left behind 'cause something in you is saying you need to get back something in you 'cause you're a sheep right now if you're hearing this sermon. It's saying you need to get back. You need to get close. You need to get out of that pasture. You need to get back to where the shepherd is so you can rejoice, but if you're a goat, that means if you're dying on your way to hell, you don't want nothing. You willfully walk away from the love and the mercy and the grace and the favor of the Father's house. God help us. This is a serious thing. I don't know about you, but I have decided that I'm gonna end stronger than I started.
I'm so thankful, today, that you've watched this program. And I don't think that it's an accident that you're viewing right now. Because right where you are, it can become a powerful place where you invite the Lord Jesus Christ into your home, into your family, into your pain, into your heart, into your trouble. Pray this prayer today, say:
Jesus, I'm coming home. I'm so sorry. I really need your grace and your mercy. I really need you to change me. I can't do this without you. I need you. Save me, heal me, help me, deliver me, and restore my life in every area. I give you the broken pieces. In Jesus' name.
Now, I praise God for this moment because the Spirit of God is doing a miracle in your life. You know, I want to declare boldly, Jesus is still your healer and He can move the mountain of cancer. He can move the disease. He can turn around a COVID case in a bad place that seems unchangeable. He can get your relative off of that oxygen and that vent that they're connected to. And Lord, we pray that you would release healing across the land, in Jesus' mighty name. We would love, today, to agree with you for your miracle. And if you just prayed that prayer, I want you to let us know by calling the number on the screen. We just enjoy hearing back from you so much. There's also a website that you can visit and we will send you our Salvation Journey Kit and it'll get you on a path for the next 21 days of devotion to God and you will begin to grow immediately in your new walk with Jesus Christ. Thank you so much. We'll see you next time.