Choose to Finish Well

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So many people have started off well in their walk with God and yet failed before the finish. Learn three choices we must make in order to finish well.

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How many of you watched the movie Interstellar? It was a Science Fiction movie that came out in 2014 with Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway.
If you saw it, you may remember a poem read by Michael Caine a few different times in the movie. The opening lines go like this:
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should rage and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. [1]
The poet, Dylan Thomas, penned these words as a man contemplating the coming death of his father.
He wasn’t a Christian, and the poem seems written to those on their deathbed, challenging them to fight to cling to life.
As we wrap up our study of Moses this week, I want to give a similar challenge to you: Do not go gentle into that good night. I am not saying fight to cling to life; instead, I am challenging you to live the life you have left to the fullest you can for the kingdom of God.
We would probably take some issue with it, because we know that death is
Moses did this. He made the choice to finish well, and I want to encourage you to do the same.
Over the past several weeks, we have seen that Moses’ life was a life of choices.
You’ll remember that in our overview of his life, we looked at the reality that, more often than not, he chose God in every decision. We looked at what that meant and were encouraged to choose to be and do what God desired every step of the way.
Next, we examined the foundation that allowed Moses to consistently choose God. We saw that Moses’ mom and dad had such a fear of God and respect for Him that they were willing to go against laws and cultural norms to do what God had called. We were challenged to lay the groundwork for our families by modeling for them a life of right choices.
Following that, we saw God confront Moses in the burning bush, which led Moses to choose belief over doubt. We saw, although hesitatingly, that Moses surrendered to God’s plan, choosing to believe that God could do the impossible through him.
We saw how Moses and the nation trusted the blood of the lamb to protect them on the night of the Passover, and we commemorated Jesus’ death for us by taking the Lord’s supper together.
We saw that Moses and the nation of Israel were given the choice to either have entry into the Promised Land or to have the presence of God. On that Sunday, we saw from Moses’ example that the most crucial thing any of us could ever want or desire is the presence of God, not the presents He can give.
Last Sunday, we examined one of the poor choices Moses made. We saw that, in a moment of rash anger, he belittled God, took credit for what only God could do, and suffered the consequences of the painful choice of pride. We heard how Moses, one of the choice servants of God in the Old Testament, immediately forfeited the right to lead the people into the Promised Land.
In these weeks, we have barely scratched the surface of who Moses was and what God did in and through Him.
Yet this morning, we are going to try to wrap up the life of this incredible man.
This morning, I want you to think of life as if it were a race.
There truly is an art to finishing well in a race.
The record books of history are filled with the tragic tales of men and women who started off well but didn’t make it to the finish line. Their greed, selfishness, lust, laziness, or whatever else caused them to collapse before they reached the end. I have seen great men fall in the last years of their life, never to regain from their moral failure.
Even more important than any race I have ever run in or will ever run in is this: finishing the race of my life well.
The annals of history are filled with the tragic tales of men and women who started off well but didn’t make it to the finish line. Their greed, selfishness, lust, laziness, or whatever else caused them to collapse before they reached the end. I have seen great men fall in the last years of their life, never to regain from their moral failure.
When people speak of them, they shake their heads and say, “Man…what a shame. He was such a great preacher, teacher, father, husband, business man…now look at him. She was so beautiful and seemed like she had everything together, but have you heard what happened?”
You and I have no idea how long this race ahead of us will last, but I promise you this: the race you are running and have been running since the day you took your first breath will one day be over. How are you going to finish?
As we look this morning in the last book in the Bible that Moses wrote, the book of Deuteronomy, we will be challenged by one final choice of Moses’ life: Choose to finish well. No matter the obstacles, no matter the pain, no matter the struggle, no matter the turmoil, choose to finish well.
Flip over with me to Deuteronomy 34. This is the only section in the first 5 books of the OT that likely wasn’t written by Moses. It is more likely that these words were written by Joshua, Moses’ successor, looking back at the life of one of God’s greatest servants.
Despite his lack of confidence in what God could do and his temper, Moses still receives some of the most glowing commendations in Scripture.
How? Because Moses was a man who chose to finish well.
Read this short chapter with me.
I want you to see with me this morning several steps Moses took as he reached the finish line. From these, I want you to see this morning how to make a conscious choice to finish well.

1) Invest in those coming behind you.

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Throughout the time Israel wandered in the desert, you see that Moses has an assistant with him: a man by the name of Joshua.
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You may remember that Joshua had gone up to Mt. Sinai with Moses and was one of the two spies out of twelve who believed that God could actually give the land to the people of Israel.
Remember when we talked about Moses’ relationship with God out of Exodus 33:17? We noted then that Joshua was with Moses when he met with God at the tent of meeting.
Moses had invested himself in a younger man who he knew would take his place some day. God told Moses in that Joshua would be the one to succeed him, and Moses spent the next years training Joshua to be the leader and man that God wanted him to be.
Over the chapters leading up to what we have just read, we see Moses handing over leadership of the people to Joshua.
Look back at verse 9...
Moses had laid his hands on Joshua, which was a symbol of transferring his authority to him. For years leading up to this, he had been training and equipping Joshua to take his place.
It would be under Joshua’s leadership that the people of Israel would finally take the land God had promised them.
As Joshua walked alongside Moses, he saw time and time again how to be the kind of man and leader that he should be.
Can I suggest to you that this is perhaps one of the greatest ways you can finish well? As you grow older, you have a responsibility to bring others with you.
We have a bad habit of forgetting that God didn’t call you to just be a good Christian by yourself.
The actual call on your life is to be a disciple-making disciple! In other words, God calls you to pour into someone else what he has taught you.
We see this in the Old Testament repeatedly as we see God commanding his people to pass down what he has done from generation to generation:
Psalm 145:4 CSB
One generation will declare your works to the next and will proclaim your mighty acts.
That is one of the reasons why I love having a church that spans multiple generations. Those of you who have walked with Jesus for a long time can encourage those who haven’t been alive as long.
Paul told Timothy that this was one of the key ways the church was supposed to work:
2 Timothy 2:2 CSB
What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
Paul explained how this works to Titus in :
Titus 2:1–7 CSB
But you are to proclaim things consistent with sound teaching. Older men are to be self-controlled, worthy of respect, sensible, and sound in faith, love, and endurance. In the same way, older women are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not slaves to excessive drinking. They are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands and to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, workers at home, kind, and in submission to their husbands, so that God’s word will not be slandered. In the same way, encourage the young men to be self-controlled in everything. Make yourself an example of good works with integrity and dignity in your teaching.
Titus 2:2–7 CSB
Older men are to be self-controlled, worthy of respect, sensible, and sound in faith, love, and endurance. In the same way, older women are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not slaves to excessive drinking. They are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands and to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, workers at home, kind, and in submission to their husbands, so that God’s word will not be slandered. In the same way, encourage the young men to be self-controlled in everything. Make yourself an example of good works with integrity and dignity in your teaching.
Titus 2:1–8 CSB
But you are to proclaim things consistent with sound teaching. Older men are to be self-controlled, worthy of respect, sensible, and sound in faith, love, and endurance. In the same way, older women are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not slaves to excessive drinking. They are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands and to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, workers at home, kind, and in submission to their husbands, so that God’s word will not be slandered. In the same way, encourage the young men to be self-controlled in everything. Make yourself an example of good works with integrity and dignity in your teaching. Your message is to be sound beyond reproach, so that any opponent will be ashamed, because he doesn’t have anything bad to say about us.
“But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance. Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.” (Titus 2:1–8, NASB95)
As an older man, it is you have a responsibility to teach younger men how to be dads, husbands, employees and employers who live godly, outstanding lives.
Those coming behind you need to see what a godly man looks like as he grows older.
Likewise, ladies, you need to model for the young moms how to stay sane through the toddler and teenage years. You need to model for them how to manage a household, how to build others up and not gossip.
You may sit there and say, “But I am not a pastor, teacher, deacon, or a leader.” Your position is not important; look around you and find someone to pour your life into. It might be your kids, your grand kids, a neighbor, a person you serve on a team with, but there has to be someone whose life you can offer some of the wisdom and experiences God has given to you.
Another objection you may have is, “But my life isn’t worth copying.” If so, make it that way! Strive hard to finish well; don’t check out because you’re tired. Serve with everything you have to finish out strong. Live a life that is worth looking up to—be the man or woman you always wanted to be when you grew up so that you can be an example to those who are following behind.
If you’re going to do this, to leave an example of finishing well, you must, just like Moses,

2) Keep seeking God’s presence.

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We talked a few weeks ago about Moses’ unique relationship with God, but it bears repeating here.
Moses never stopped seeking the face of God. As you look through these last few chapters of the book of Deuteronomy, you find Moses in constant communion with God until the very end.
In fact, that’s what we see here in - His final moments were spent directly in the presence of God, to the point that God even oversaw the burial of Moses’ body!
It can be so tempting to get to a point and either think you have arrived and don’t need to grow anymore, or that you resign yourself and settle in that this is just how you are.
That is what is so beautiful for me. I last preached this passage in June of 2012. I have had the privilege of walking with this church for seven more years since then, and it has been such a joy to see our older adults lead out in growing in Christlikeness.
Your faithfulness to the Lord, the way you have embraced new folks into our church family, and your tenderness is incredible to watch.
In the last few weeks, I have seen this in great ways as one of our faithful leaders was here at the altar crying out for more of God’s presence. I have seen it as I sat at the kitchen table of another faithful leader whose eyes were filled with tears as we reflected on the goodness of God. I have been in awe as some of our older adults have faced the most difficult and painful moments of life and stayed faithful to God.
You challenge me to keep seeking and growing.
Don’t you dare think you have arrived. In fact, those who are closest to God generally have the best sense of how far they still have to go.
Paul did, which is why he said:
Philippians 3:12–14 CSB
Not that I have already reached the goal or am already perfect, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.
“Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12–14, NASB95)
I have a sense of what this must be like. I remember the days shortly after Dr. Adrian Rogers went home to be with the Lord. I was on staff at Bellevue at the time, and I remember a great sense of heaviness during that time. Here, a man who had been used of God in such incredible ways was gone.
As I thought through his passing, I started to see it in this light: I often talk to my wife on my drive home. I call her on my cell phone and we chat about the day. As I pull into the driveway and walk through the door, I hear an echo between her words as she speaks them and her words through the phone.
I dare say that for Moses, for Adrian Rogers, and for so many who have finished well, it must have been something like that. They had communed with God so often through prayer that it was like walking through the door, hanging up the phone, and hearing His voice.
Are you that way in your walk with Him, or have you let your love for Him grow cold and distant?
Your body may be failing and your health may keep you from serving as actively as you have in days gone by, but never give up seeking His presence.
Seek Him all the more as you draw closer to Him. Delve deeply into His Word, occupy your mind with the things of Him, and stay so close to His presence that the last days of your life will be characterized by a sense of Him.
I have often heard that old age magnifies your character traits. If you were a somewhat disagreeable person when you were younger, as you grow older, you’ll turn into a bitter, snarky old man. If you were a kind and loving person, that gentility will show through as you mature.
What is going to come out of as you age? Is it going to be a longing to be with Him? A sense that He is more real to you than He ever has been, or is it going to be a bitter time, sitting in the corner and waiting to die?
For Moses, he continued to seek the presence of God until God took him home.
Choose now to finish well!
If you’re young here today, make the choice now that you will continue to seek Him. Never be satisfied with where you are in your walk with Christ; always desire to know Him better and serve Him more closely.
If you’re continuing to find His presence, seeking to pass on what God has done in your life to those who will follow behind, you, like Moses will have to…

3) Stay strong to the end.

(Deut 34:5-12)
One of the greatest realities of Moses’ life is that he never quit serving.
I know that God preserved Moses’ health in an unusual way. He had a vigor and vitality at 120 that many of us don’t have at 60.
Yet, the principle is still there. Whatever God calls you to do, however long that is, keep working to the best of the strength God gives you until He stops giving you breath.
Here is what the psalmist said to us:
Psalm 92:12–15 CSB
The righteous thrive like a palm tree and grow like a cedar tree in Lebanon. Planted in the house of the Lord, they thrive in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, healthy and green, to declare: “The Lord is just; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.”
psalm 92:
If you can no longer serve in an active ministry, serve in your chair by making phone calls and writing notes. The very fact that you come here as regularly as you can to worship is a testimony to the rest of us of the fact that God is worth serving until the end!
If you can’t serve in your chair, serve on your back by barraging heaven with your prayers. If you can no longer serve on your back, let the praises of God be so true in your heart that every nurse you come into contact with, every family member who comes to your side, every person you meet will know of the God you love, serve, and are longing to see.
Make the choice; finish well.
Conclusion
The epithet of Moses life is found here in Deuteronomy 34. I can almost see Joshua, who had seen God through Moses so clearly, as he penned these words…
What will people say of you? You know, there’s not a person in here who knows the day you will die. Any single one of us may not be here before the day is out. This may be my 4th quarter of life.
Whether this is the end of the game or the start of it, I must choose now that I will finish well.
Do not go gentle into that good night, not because we fear death, but because this life is the only time we will have for all eternity to honor God by bringing people to him. This is the only chance you have to glorify God in your suffering, or to give generously to those in need.
May we, with Moses, live a life of choices that please the God who called us.
“We have all eternity to celebrate our victories, but only one short hour before sunset in which to win them.”
May we also remember that Moses was not the perfect deliverer that God’s people needed.
One day, Jesus would come to offer true, lasting rest for God’s people that Moses never could.
Moses’ sin kept him from the promised land, yet it was our sin that put Jesus on the cross.
Whether you are 10, 20, 40, 80, or 120 years, the hour is short, and the time is now.
Moses was comforted by God’s presence in his final moments, where Jesus took the weight of God’s wrath that we deserve.
We knew where Jesus’ body was laid, but on the third day after Jesus’ death, he was beautifully and powerfully raised from the grave to offer us hope, life, and a right relationship with God.
Do not go gentle into that good night, not because we fear death, but because this life is the only time we will have for all eternity to honor God by bringing people to him. This is the only chance you have to glorify God in your suffering, or to give generously to those in need.
Hear some of the final words of Moses to God’s people. As he has gone over all that God has done and all that God expects of His people, Moses says,
Deuteronomy 30:11–20 CSB
“This command that I give you today is certainly not too difficult or beyond your reach. It is not in heaven so that you have to ask, ‘Who will go up to heaven, get it for us, and proclaim it to us so that we may follow it?’ And it is not across the sea so that you have to ask, ‘Who will cross the sea, get it for us, and proclaim it to us so that we may follow it?’ But the message is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, so that you may follow it. See, today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and adversity. For I am commanding you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, statutes, and ordinances, so that you may live and multiply, and the Lord your God may bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you do not listen and you are led astray to bow in worship to other gods and serve them, I tell you today that you will certainly perish and will not prolong your days in the land you are entering to possess across the Jordan. I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, love the Lord your God, obey him, and remain faithful to him. For he is your life, and he will prolong your days as you live in the land the Lord swore to give to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
““For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. “It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ “Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ “But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it. “See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. “But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it. “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”” (Deuteronomy 30:11–20, NASB95)
Choose to live out the rest of your life surrendering to the will of God. Choose to finish well.
May we also remember that Moses was not the perfect deliverer that God’s people needed.
One day, Jesus would come to offer true, lasting rest for God’s people that Moses never could.
Moses’ sin kept him from the promised land, yet it was our sin that put Jesus on the cross.
Moses was comforted by God’s presence in his final moments, where Jesus took the weight of God’s wrath that we deserve.
We knew where Jesus’ body was laid, but on the third day after Jesus’ death, he was beautifully and powerfully raised from the grave to offer us hope, life, and a right relationship with God.
Endnotes:
[1] Thomas, Dylan. “Do not go gentle into that good night.” The Poems of Dylan Thomas. https://poets.org/poem/do-not-go-gentle-good-night. Accessed 9 October 2019.
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