It’s that time of year where we reflect on the things behind us and the moments ahead of us. How will we finish out 2016? Will we have encouragement and excitement for what lies ahead? Or will we shoulder a heavy burden of disappointments an failures? A deep relationship with God is especially relevant when it comes to finishing well.
Many significant people from the pages of Scripture did not finish well. I believe that the primary reason for this is due to their shallow relationship with God in their latter years. Accomplishing something great for the Lord doesn’t result in a “spiritual insurance policy” for the rest of your life. In reality, the need for intimacy with Jesus grows as a person’s work in the Kingdom of God increases in scope and influence. I’m sure these men from the Bible would give a hearty “Amen” to that truth.
With only 300 men, Gideon and the men of Israel defeated the armies of the Midianites, Amalekites, and all the sons of the east. The nation of Israel enjoyed 40 years of peace as a result of the victory. But then Gideon took the spoil from their enemy, made it into an ephod, and all of Israel engaged in idolatry with it there. (Judges 6-8)
As a choice and handsome young man, Saul was anointed by the prophet Samuel as ruler over God’s inheritance. But then the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord terrorized him. He attempted to kill David and consulted a medium. (I Samuel 9-28)
Solomon is anointed king and God blesses him with power, wealth, and wisdom. But then when he became old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord. (I Kings 1-11)
There are, of course, some good examples of people in the Bible who finished strong. Let’s consider one of these men, the prophet Elijah. You could say that he ended his life definitely fired up for God. “As they were going along and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven.” (II Kings 2:11, NASB) No idols, no mediums, no other gods in his life. Elijah accomplished great things for the Lord and spoke boldly the truth, all the way to the end of his time on earth. That’s a goal for all of us to desire.
The 4 W’s
Here are 4 W’s for growing in intimacy with God that I have found to be personally helpful. They are:
1 – Welcome the work of the Holy Spirit.
For our discussion here, the work of the Holy Spirit consists of two primary things. The first is referred to in John 16:8, “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment;” If we are going to grow in intimacy with Jesus, we must respond to the convicting work of the Holy Spirit by dealing aggressively with our sin.
In addition to welcoming the Spirit’s convicting us of our sin, we need to reveal His fruit by choosing to live a holy life. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23, NASB) This fruit is most evident in the way we treat other people.
2 – Be in the Word.
1 Peter 2:2 says this, “like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation,” (NASB) There is hardly a more vivid picture of intimacy than that of a baby longing for the milk of it’s mother. That’s probably why it is used in 1 Peter to describe what our attitude and desire toward the Word of God should be.
The Word can be thought of as a love letter from God to His children. It expresses His intimate love for us and reveals how this love has been demonstrated throughout the centuries. If you want to grow in intimacy with Jesus, and if you want to continue growing so that a strong finish is true for you, then a commitment to be a life-long student of the Word is essential. Make a commitment to be in the Word every day, establish a consistent reading plan, systematically study it, memorize many passages, and as you meditate on it each day you will succeed.
3 – Witness
The desire to reach the lost is a result of intimacy with Jesus while it also causes our intimacy to grow. I believe that obediently sharing the Good News of Jesus is the best thermometer of your spiritual temperature. I’ve never met a person who was a faithful witness who wasn’t on-fire for the Lord. So if you want that fire, if you want greater intimacy, if you’re tired of a boring “churchianity”, step out in faith and share Jesus. Your intimacy will grow and the Lord will be glorified.
4 – Worship
Taking time out of our busy schedules to focus on the Lord in worship is so beneficial toward growing in intimacy. During these times, He will often convict of sin or give strategy for ministry. He also reveals more of His awesomeness, instruct on how to pray for others, and so much more.
David said in Psalm 73:28, “But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works.” (NASB) God is good, and being in an intimate relationship with Him is good. It will make life enjoyable and will enable us to finish strong.