Yes today is Saint Patrick’s Day and no I am not going to spend much time on it but just use it to make a point. One person summarized this day by saying “This day commemorates Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland.” Yes this is a fascinating story to read but you would not get this picture at all if you attended your local watering hole whilst many were “Wetting the Shamrock” and for those indulging heavily “Drowning the Shamrock”. Even though this is the season of Lent, this day with permission from the church turned into a day of feasting and drinking. Another person said, “In recent decades, St Patrick's Day celebrations have been criticized, particularly for their association with public drunkenness and disorder. Some argue that the festivities have become too commercialized and tacky, and have strayed from their original purpose of honouring St Patrick and Irish heritage.” Do you think?
                Today we are looking at King Asa and finishing strong but first let’s look at the church today. It really is no different than the celebration of Christianity turning into a drink fest. Revelation 2:4 “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” We are definitely not doing what we did at first (New Testament)  Revelation 3:1 “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. Revelation 3:15 “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” On a side note it saddens me the direction the church has taking concerning drinking. No you cannot argue that the wine in the bible is unfermented, that's just stupid but you can argue that in our day drinking is deadly with unknown consequences from generation to generation. So many Christian’s have turned away from abstaining to joining the crowds, which is a heart issue. Yes it does feel sometimes that you are one of the few who don’t drink but that’s okay. Jesus turning the water into wine was not a license to start making wine. Sure if you feel you're your drinking is part of the fulfillment of a scriptural promise, then sure drink away but don’t drink just to fit in, that's the cowards road and it will lead to a dead end.
                The message of the church today has lost its fire and fervor, which is understandable, as we have also lost the fear of God and knowledge, which has led to our desolate state. This has happened because most people still want to be friends of the world. James 4:4 “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” Proverbs 23:17 “Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord.” Since we have lost our first love many are not finishing strong. They live their whole life before God placid (little activity) and their candle is almost burnt out and casts very little light in the darkness. Some of this comes from false teaching that teaches all they have to do is get by but mostly it comes from a satisfaction with tepid waters. We are called to be on fire, passionate and burning for God not comfortable in our pew. No wonder people think God is dead because all they see are dead Christians who are just white washed in name only.
                King Asa, king of Judah teaches us about finishing strong. The account of his kingship is found in 1 Kings 15 and 2 Chronicles 14-16 with Chronicles expanding on his life. The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:24 “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” We do not want to come to the end and find out we have been disqualified because we didn’t finish strong. Finishing strong means we follow and obey God’s word till the day we die. Paul also said, 2 Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” We do not coast to the finish line. Have you seen the races where the runner who thinks they have first wrapped up, lets up at the end with their arms in the air and they get passed right at the end of the race. Again Paul says Galatians 5:7 “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? 8 That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.” This could mean following a different gospel or simply not living for God passionately but remember satan is trying to get you to turn away.
                Caleb finished strong and followed wholeheartedly even though at no fault of his own spent all those years in the desert. Joshua 14:10 “Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! 11 I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. 12 Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” 13 Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. 14 So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the Lord, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly. Numbers 14:24 “But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.” So we do not give up no matter what our circumstances are. The Lord will help the wholehearted take down the giants.
                Kings Asa started strong and followed God all His life. He did what was good and right in the eyes of God. It is amazing how soon after David they had to remove, destroy and demolish the evil in their land. They built up the land and were at rest because they sought the Lord. The Cushites then attacked and 2 Chronicles 14:11 Then Asa called to the Lord his God and said, “Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. Lord, you are our God; do not let mere mortals prevail against you.” 12 The Lord struck down the Cushites before Asa and Judah.” After this God spoke to King Asa and all Judah and Benjamin through Azariah. 2 Chronicles 15:2 “The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you. 7 But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” Here we have this great command; Do Not Give Up!” They took courage and sought God eagerly. King Asa took this so seriously he even deposed his grandmother from her position as queen mother because she had made a repulsive Asherah pole. That's being zealous for the Lord. Remember Gideon did the same. Judges 6:25 “Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it.”
                So here we have King Asa doing what he is supposed to do and all is well until the 36th year of his reign.  Basha King of Israel went up against Judah. Now King Asa shows us how not to finish strong. He takes the silver and gold from the temple and palace to ask the king of Aram to help him. It sounded good on paper and they were successful, that is until Hanani the seer stopped by. He said, ““Because you relied on the king of Aram and not on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Aram has escaped from your hand. 8 Were not the Cushites and Libyans a mighty army with great numbers of chariots and horsemen? Yet when you relied on the Lord, he delivered them into your hand. 9 For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war.” Then in the 39th year of his reign, his feet became diseased. This is an interesting verse for us today. “Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the Lord, but only from the physicians. 2 Chronicles 16:13 “Then in the forty-first year of his reign Asa died and rested with his ancestors.”
                First of all look how fast the kingdom fell since David. You have Solomon- Rehoboam-Abijah- Asa. Think about this for a moment; they only reigned a total of 101 years. I have a picture with 4 generations together. This is not a very long period of time. We saw how the whole kingdom was torn away from Solomon, split up and given to Jeroboam. Judges reminds us this falling away can happen fast. Judges 2:10 “After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. 11 Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. 12 They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt.” If we are going to finish this race strong we must obey and not turn away to other gospels as millions have done today. This happens fast and for many there will be no return. We can start strong and flourish but if we don’t finish strong it will be for nothing. Remember our enemy is a roaring lion looking to devour us. He will, if we do not remain obedient. 1 Peter 5:8 “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.”
                Your life may be smooth sailing and then something unexpected may happen. Will you remain steadfast and finish strong or will you turn away and follow your own path. Nothing big may happen in your life, even so will you follow wholeheartedly or will you meander apathetically though life waiting for it to be over, hoping some day for Beulah land. Or you may be opposed by satan day in and day out, but you know whom you believe. Hebrews 12:1 “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” As Asa was told, we too must not give up. The message of the gospel is cast before us. What will you do with it? Matthew 13:19 “When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
                Lets run with perseverance and finish this race no matter what comes at us. We know as Asa was told 2 Chronicles 15:2 “The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.” We also know we are in a time where Jeremiah 5:31 “The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?” We are supposed to follow God’s word wholeheartedly but as 2 Chronicles 15:3 goes on to say, “For a long time Israel was without the true God, without a priest to teach and without the law.” Malachi 2:8 “But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi,” says the Lord Almighty.” This is not how it should be but as Malachi continues we see the truth. 5 “My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. 6 True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin. 7 “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth.”
            This is where we have a choice. Will we finish strong, be cut off or give up and turn away. The right choice as always is to repent and turn back and then finish strong.
    Luke 24:30 “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” 33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Jesus sent out the disciples Luke 9:1 “When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” Mark 16:20 “Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” After they were told to seek the Lord 2 Chronicles 15:4 “in their distress they turned to the Lord, the God of Israel, and sought him, and he was found by them.”
                This promise still applies to us today and you have a choice. Deuteronomy 30:19 “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Joshua 24:15 “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Choose wisely as your life and the life of your children depends on it.