Joel Osteen — Finishing Grace
I want to talk to you today about "Finishing grace". It doesn't take a lot of effort to start things. Start a diet, start school, start a family. Is what can be difficult. Any young lady can have a baby, but it takes a mother to really raise that child. Any two people can get married, but it takes commitment to stick with it for the long haul. Anyone can have a dream, but it takes determination, perseverance, a made up mind to see it come to pass.
The question is not will you start, but will you finish? Will you finish the diet? Will you finish school? Will you finish raising your children? Too many people start off good. They have big dreams, they're excited about their future. But along the way, they have some setbacks. It's taking longer than they thought, somebody didn't do what they said, and over time, they get discouraged, think, "Well, that's the use? It's never going to work out".
But God is called the author and the finisher of our faith. He's not only given you the grace to start, he's given you the grace to finish, and when you're tempted to get discouraged, give up on a dream, give up on a relationship, give up on a project, you have to remind yourself, "I was not created to give up, I was not created to quit. I was created to finish," and you got to shake off the discouragement, shake off the self-pity, shake off what somebody said.
If you will keep moving forward in faith, honoring God, you will come into a strength that you didn't have before. A force pushing you forward, that's finishing grace. That's God breathing in your direction, helping you to become who he created you to be, and this grace is available, it's not going to do us any good if we sit around in self-pity, thinking about how difficult it is, what didn't work out.
"Well, Joel, my college professor, he's so hard, I'll never pass his course". No, you have the grace to finish. Quit talking defeat and start talking victory. "I can do all things through Christ. Creativity. I will pass this course". When you do that, finishing grace will help you do what you could not do on your own. Even in simple things, you start cleaning your house, 5 minutes later, "I don't feel like doing this. I am so tired, this is so boring". No, turn it around, "I am strong in the Lord. I am full of energy, I am healthy. This is no match for me". If you'll tap into this finishing grace, you'll vacuum your house like you're on a mission from God. Vacuuming up dirt, coins, socks, children, anything that gets in your way.
Maybe you're tempted to give up on a dream, things haven't turned out the way you planned. It was going fine at first, but then you had some obstacles and you think, "Hey, man, it just wasn't meant to be". But here's what I've learned. The enemy doesn't try to stop you from starting. He's seen a lot of people start. That doesn't bother him, but when you have a made up mind and you keep pushing forward, doing the right thing, taking new ground, when he sees you getting closer, he'll work overtime to try to keep you from finishing, and when you have setbacks, disappointments, people come against you, a negative medical report, don't get discouraged. That's a sign that you're moving toward your finish line.
He was fine when you got started, he was fine when you were way back, no big deal, but when you began to make progress, that got his attention. That's when he threw some obstacles, some challenges. Where you confused him is he thought you would give up after the first few difficulties. He thought you would get discouraged when that friend turned on you, when you lost that client, when your child got in trouble. But instead, you kept moving that he's in control, thanking him that he's fighting your battles, thanking him that no weapon formed against you will prosper. What were you doing? Tapping into finishing grace.
When you should've gotten weaker, you got stronger. When you should've been depressed, you had a smile on your face. When you should've been complaining, instead of talking about how big the problem was, you were always talking about how big your God is, and when you should've gone under, God caused you to go over. When you didn't see a way, he made a way. When people came against you, he fought your battles, and you came out better than you were before.
Now, you may be up against challenges right now, it's because you're moving forward, you're making progress. Keep reminding yourself he's the author and the finisher of your faith. God helped you to get started, that's great. But something more important, he's going to help you to finish. He didn't bring says in philippians, "God began a good work in you, and he will continue to perform it until it's complete". One translation says, "He will bring you to a flourishing finish". Not a defeated finish where you barely make it, beat up, broke. No, you are coming to a flourishing finish, than you ever imagined.
This is what happened to a man in the scripture named Joseph. As a teenager, God gave him a dream that one day he would rule a nation. His father Jacob loved him very much. Everything started off great for Joseph, had a big dream, a supportive family, life was good. But along the way, things started to go wrong. His brothers, who loved him very much at one time, this was their little brother Joseph. They were always taking up for him, making sure nobody harmed him. But these same brothers turned on him. They were jealous, and they threw Joseph into a pit, left him there to die.
They eventually changed their mind and sold him into slavery to a man named Potiphar, and here Joseph hadn't yet his whole world had been turned upside down. Looked like his dream was done, betrayed by his family, a slave in a foreign country. If that wasn't bad enough, they put him in prison for 13 years for something that he didn't do. Surely Joseph was depressed, angry, bitter, upset, nothing had turned out right.
No, Joseph understood this principle. Not only to start, but to finish what God put in his heart. He knew the enemy wouldn't be fighting him if he wasn't heading toward his destiny. He kept doing the right thing when the wrong thing was happening, not working unto people, but working unto God, and one day, the pharaoh, the leader of the nation, had a dream that he didn't understand, and Joseph was able to interpret the dream, and pharaoh was so impressed with Joseph, he brought him out of prison and put him in charge of the whole nation.
And God has put something on you that will override people being against you. It will override bad breaks, injustice. You have the grace not to just start, you have something even more powerful, the grace to finish, and when you have an attitude like Joseph, you cannot stay defeated. Life may push you down, but God will push you back up. People may do you wrong, but God will be your vindicator. Situations may look impossible, but God can do the impossible, and when you have finishing grace, all the forces of darkness cannot stop you.
Sure, you may have some setbacks, bad breaks, injustice, but don't worry, it's only temporary. It's just a detour on the way to your destiny. That's a sign that you are moving toward your finish line. See, the enemy doesn't fight people that are going the wrong way. People that are off course, discouraged, distracted, bitter, angry, that's where he wants you. He comes against people that are headed toward the fullness of their destinies, people that are taking new ground, people like you that are coming our attitude should be, "I have a made up mind. I'm going to keep moving forward in spite of the bad break, in spite of the loss, in spite of the negative report, in spite of the critics. My destiny is too great, my assignment too important to get discouraged, distracted, bitter. I'm not going to become half, I'm going to become all God's created me to be".
When you're tempted to get discouraged and settle, it's because you're close to your breakthrough. You're close to seeing the problem turn around. You're close to meeting the right person. Pharaoh is about to call you, so to speak. The good break is on the way. The healing is on the way. The contract is on the way. Now, you've got to tap into this finishing grace.
Friends, you've come too far to stop now. You believed too long. You've worked too hard. You've invested too much. It may be difficult, negative voices may be telling you, "Hey, it's never going to work out. Forget it, just settle where you are". But don't believe those lies. You are close to your destiny, and when the going gets tough, you have to dig your heels in and say, "I am in it to win it. I am not moved by this opposition. I am not moved by what I see, by what I feel. I'm moved by what I know, and I know this, I have the grace to finish. I know this, God began a good work in me, and he's going to complete it. So, I'm going to keep honoring God, I'm going to keep being good to people, I'm going to keep on being my best".
Every day you do that, you are passing the test, you are one day closer to coming the scripture says here in Deuteronomy, "As your days are, so shall your strength be". This means your strength to what you need. If you were to get a negative medical report, you're going to have the strength to deal with it. You're not going to fall apart, "Oh, I can believe this is happening". No, your strength will always match.
I remember when my father went to be with the Lord, my first thought was, "How am I going to deal with this"? My dad and I were very close. We'd traveled the world together, and all of the sudden he was gone. But what I thought knock the wind out of me, it wasn't anything like I'd imagined. I felt a peace like I'd never felt, a strength, a resolve, a determination. I should've been upset, anxious, but that whole time I was at peace. Deep down, I felt a rest. Sure, in my mind there were thoughts of worry, anxiety, discouragement, but in my spirit, I could hear God whispering, "Joel, I'm in control. It's all going to work out. I've got you in the palm of my hand".
That was finishing grace pushing me forward, propelling me into my destiny. The psalmist said, "God is very present help in times of need". In the difficulties of life, if you will get quiet and turn off the negative voices, you will feel a peace that passes understanding. You should be falling apart, but there's grace for every season.
Victoria and I were in Colorado earlier this year, driving through the mountains, and we rented an SUV, a large vehicle with an eight-cylinder engine. As long as we were on the flat roads, the engine was as quiet as can be, but as we started going up the steep, winding mountain roads, just when you thought the vehicle couldn't make it, just when it looked like it was going to stop, you could hear those extra two cylinders kick in. You could actually feel the car almost like it lifted up and took off with a new power.
Here's my point, those two extra cylinders were there all the time. The extra power was always available, it just showed up when we needed it. It was strength in reserve, and sometimes in life, we think, "How am I going to make it up that steep hill? I've gotten this far, but how am I going to deal with this illness? How am I going to raise this difficult child? I went through a loss, Joel, I don't think I can go on". No, God has some strength in reserve for you, and when you hit a tough time, don't worry, there are two more cylinders about to kick in, a strength you haven't tapped into. You're going to feel a force pushing you forward, taking you where you could not go on your own. That's finishing grace.
Now, I've learned the closer you get to your destiny, the tougher the battles become. The higher you go up the mountain, the more God promotes you, the steeper the hill is. The critics will come out of the woodwork. People may not celebrate you, unexpected challenges, a health issue, a business slows down, you lose a loved one. It's easy to think, "Man, I was doing so good. If I just wouldn't have had this bad break, now I've got this steep hill to go up".
No, that challenge is a sign that you are close to your destiny, and the same God that gave you the grace to start is the same God that's going to help you finish. He knows exactly where your path is leading, and nothing you're facing is a surprise to him. He knows every hill, every disappointment, every setback. He said that his grace is sufficient. You will never come to a hill where you don't have now.
You may face some challenges like I did when my dad went to be with the Lord, where you think, "Man, I don't know how I'm going to make it up this". The reason you think that way is you haven't needed those two extra cylinders yet. You have not felt the full force of finishing grace. Going to propel you forward. You're going to climb mountains that you thought were way too steep. You're going to overcome obstacles that looked insurmountable, accomplish dreams that you thought were impossible. How could you do this? Finishing grace. You tapped into strength in reserve.
This is what the apostle Paul did in the scripture. He faced some huge hills. Didn't look like he could fulfill his destiny. He was doing the right thing, sharing the good news, helping other people when he was arrested and put in prison. The closer he got to his destiny, the more obstacles he faced. He was alone in a dungeon on death row. It looked like God had forgotten about him.
But Paul wasn't defeated, depressed, feeling sorry for himself. Even though he was in chains, they couldn't stop what God wanted him to do, and since Paul couldn't go out and speak publicly, he thought, "No problem, I'll start writing". He wrote book after book. Here's a letter to the Ephesians. Here's a letter to the Colossians, to the Romans, he wrote over half of the new testament, much of it from a prison cell. They thought they were stopping him, but they were doing just the opposite, causing his voice to become amplified.
Here we are some 2,000 years later, still feeling Paul's influence. What they meant for harm, God used for good, and people may try to stop you, but finishing grace will get you to they may push you down, but finishing grace will lift you back up. They may try to discredit, belittle, leave you out. Don't get upset, they are a part of the plan to get you to your destiny. God will use them to propel you forward, and as long as you stay in faith and keep honoring God, you will accomplish your assignment. He is the author and the finisher of your faith.
Now, quit focusing on who's against you, on how steep the hill is, on how impossible it looks, God has the final say. He brought Joseph out of prison, Paul stayed in prison, but they both fulfilled their destinies, and if God doesn't turn it around the way you thought, he may do like Paul and cause you to have great influence right in the midst of your enemies. In the midst of those difficulties, you can shine, be a bright light, have God's favor. Bottom line is this, no person can stand against our God. No bad break can keep you from your destiny. God has given you finishing grace.
He's going to get you to when Paul came to the end of his life, he said, "I have finished my course". One place says, "I finished my course with joy". Notice he didn't finish defeated, depressed, sour. He finished with a smile on his face. He finished with a spring in his step. He finished with a song in his heart. That's what it means to have a flourishing finish, and we all have things come against us, and it's easy through life discouraged, negative, bitter, but there is no victory if you finish your course that way.
You have to make up your mind, "I'm not only going to finish my course, I'm going to finish it with joy, with a good attitude, not complaining, but with a song of praise. Not thinking about what I don't have, but thanking God for what I do have. Not looking at what's wrong in my life, but thanking God for what's right in my life". When you tap into finishing grace, you won't drag through the day, you'll enjoy the day.
Thousands of years ago in Greece, there was a famous race called the torch race. All of the runners got a torch. At the start of the race, they would light the fire. Those runners would take off running with their torch lit, and the only way you can win the race was to cross the finish line with your torch still lit. Even if you finish first, if your fire went out, you were disqualified.
So, the whole time they were running, on the forefront of their mind was protecting their fire, keeping it from wind, or rain, or anything that might put it out. They were constantly checking their torch to make sure it's the same principle in the race of life. If you're going to finish your course with joy, you've got to guard your fire. You can't let your flame go out.
Too many people have lost their passion. They're still running, but their torch is no longer lit. At one time, they were passionate about their dreams. They had some setbacks. Now they're running, that's good, but they let their fire go out. They lost their zeal. If that's you, I've come to relight your fire. God is not done with you. You have not seen your best days. You've got to shake off the blahs, shake off the discouragement. There is a flame that is still alive on the inside of you, and the scripture talks about how we have to fan the flame, stir up the gifts. It's not enough to just finish, you got to finish your course with your fire still burning.