Treat this year-end like the end of your life. Then be ecstatic that you get to start a new life tomorrow.
For some of us, not only is the year ending, but so is a life-ministry. When the clock tolls midnight I will hand off the senior leadership of Bethlehem to Jason Meyer (with overwhelming gratefulness for God’s goodness). I’ll be on staff until March 31, 2013, but effectively, this season of leadership is over.
So not only do I get to start a new life tomorrow (as it were), I get to start a new era of life (as it is).
Here is what I am preaching to myself, and to you too, if you want to listen in: Long, effective ministries and lives can end very badly. Don’t let it happen. Finish in faith.
I am considering only one example, Asa, the king of Judah, who reigned from 911 to 870 B.C. He started so well. He continued well. And he ended in foolish unbelief. It happens. The story is told in 2 Chronicles 14–16. Covenant with me, by grace, not to let it happen.
King Asa began well.
- “Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God.” (14:2)
- “He took away the foreign altars and the high places.” (14:3)
- “Even his mother, King Asa removed from being queen mother because she had made a detestable image for Asherah.” (15:16)
- “He commanded Judah to seek the Lord.” (14:4)
- “He had no war in those years, for the Lord gave him peace.” (14:6)
- “So they built and prospered.” (14:7)
He continued well, and trusted the Lord.
- “Asa had an army of 300,000 from Judah, and 280,000 men from Benjamin.” (14:8)
- “But Zerah the Ethiopian came out against them with an army of a million men and 300 chariots.” (14:9)
- “Asa cried to the Lord his God, “O Lord, there is none like you . . . Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on you . . . O Lord, you are our God; let not man prevail against you.” (14:11)
- “So the Lord defeated the Ethiopians before Asa.” (14:12)
- “The heart of Asa was wholly true all his days. . . And there was no more war until the thirty-fifth year of the reign of Asa.” (15:17, 19)
The terrible turn in the heart of Asa:
- “In the thirty-sixth year of the reign of Asa, Baasha king of Israel went up against [Asa, and besieged Judah] that no one might go out or come in to Asa king of Judah.” (16:1)
- “Then Asa took silver and gold from the treasures of the house of the Lord . . . and sent them to Ben-hadad king of Syria, . . . saying, . . . Go, break your covenant with Baasha king of Israel, that he may withdraw from me.” (16:2-3)
- “And Ben-hadad listened to King Asa and sent the commanders of his armies against the cities of Israel.” (16:4)
- “And when Baasha heard of it, he [withdrew].” (16:5)
- “But Hanani the seer came to Asa and said to him, ‘Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you.’” (16:7)
- “You have done foolishly.” (16:9)
- “Then Asa was angry with the seer and put him in the stocks in prison.” (16:10)
- “In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe. Yet even in his disease he did not seek the Lord.” (16:12)
That was the end of a great king’s life. Tragic. It happens.
But tomorrow is a new year. A new life. Even if you are in the middle of an Asa-like infidelity, God is giving you another chance. If you will repent, he will forgive and renew. “Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43).
Whether you are 17 or 66, you can start over. Zacchaeus started over (Luke 19:8). Peter started over (Luke 22:32, 62). Paul started over (Acts 9:21). Lydia started over (Acts 16:14, 40). If you are alive in the morning, you can start over.
Join with me in a fresh covenant with our God: In the name of Jesus and by his blood-bought grace, I will finish in faith. Say that (with me) from your heart.