It is the man of God who defied the word of the Lord. The Lord has given him over to the lion, which has mauled him and killed him, as the word of the Lord had warned him. (1 Kings 13:26 NIV)
Starting strong sets the pace; finishing strong wins awards.
In 1 Kings 13, we find a “man of God.” He is unnamed, so let’s call him Bob. He accurately prophesied the birth of King Josiah and his future purging of the false prophets in Judah. Bob also healed the king’s shriveled hand that God gave him after he threatened Bob for his prophecy. From these events, we know Bob heard God, aligned himself to God’s purpose and demonstrated God’s power.
From the start, God told Bob to go straight home after sharing his prophecy with the king. He could not stop for anything to eat or drink or even return home using the same road he took to get to the palace. That meant no hotel reservations, no rest stops and no fast food on the way.
After he prophesied, was threatened, and subsequently healed the king, the grateful king invited Bob to dinner and offered him a present. But Bob refused – even if the king had offered him half his kingdom. This reveals Bob’s integrity and courage.
However, after his refusal of the king’s invitation, Bob received another dinner invitation. But this one came from a certain old prophet. See, Bob stopped on his way home to rest in the shade of a nearby tree. Along came this old prophet with the familiar message that they were on the same side, listening to the same God. He said God told him to bring Bob back to his home for dinner. As colleagues, they would have an enjoyable dinner with much to talk about.
It was easy to refuse an evil king. But it was difficult to refuse another prophet who seemed courteous and hospitable. I am sure Bob reasoned, This guy is also a man of God, so surely it will be OK. He did say God spoke to him, right? Besides, it would be good to spend a little time of fellowship with another prophet. Unfortunately, the old prophet was lying. His mission was deception and distraction. Sadly, they were soon seated at his table.
That is when God interrupted dinner. Through the old prophet, God condemned Bob for not fully obeying Him. He prophesied that God would kill Bob on his way home.
Bob started strong, but faded along the way. He heard from God, initially obeyed Him, and had the courage to stand in the face of evil. He had power from God to heal and had the anointing of God for His special mission. Yet he failed to finish strong and paid dearly for his mistake.
He was vulnerable to deceit. He was tempted with physical desires, even though God expressly prohibited them. He listened to man instead of staying true to what he knew God told him. Instead of trusting what he knew to be true, he listened to someone he thought he could trust – based solely on what this person told him. He didn’t even ask God for the man’s background check!
Bob’s legacy offers some valuable life application lessons to ensure that we finish strong:
- God’s Word is unchanging. No matter how some people downplay it, twist it to their advantage, or privately interpret it, trust it implicitly; obey it explicitly.
- God’s mission and purpose for you are specific. Once you identify them, stay true to the course He has laid out for you. Don’t deviate from them for anyone or anything.
- Though you start strong and are on fire for God, you must run your race with patience (Hebrews 12:1) and strive for the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14). Never stop along your spiritual road until you finish your race and hear Him say, Well done, good and faithful servant (Matthew 25:21).
- Not everyone who comes into your life is intended to stay. They may not be who they say they are; they may in fact be a distraction or a test to see if you remain true to God. Don’t be vulnerable to false prophets; rather, test the spirit of each person to see if they are from God (1 John 4:1).
- Base your convictions on God’s truth, then stay true to them – no matter the audience. Don’t just start strong; finish strong!