How often have we heard a preacher say, 'and finally....'. Sometimes we sincerely hope he or she is about to close!
Joking apart, there are a number of very important points regarding 'finally' made by the writers of the epistles, and we can all learn from them and apply them to our spiritual lives today. Paul included in his letters, often, the word 'finally' and I want us to look at some of those references.
Finally means to be conclusive or completing. Usually, when we hear or read the word 'finally' we know that the end is just around the corner!
2 Thessalonians 3: 1 reads, 'Finally brothers....pray for us.' Why was Paul writing this? Well, the verse goes on to give us the reason why the church should pray for them. Paul so wanted the Lord's message to be spread and the verse continues in this vein for the simple and most important reason, 'that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honoured, just as it has with you.'
Today, we can do the same. We can say 'pray for us that God's message will spread rapidly and touch the hearts of lives wherever we go and whoever we meet. We might not be writing a letter to our church, but we can certainly as Paul requested, say, 'Pray for us that this wonderful Gospel message will be heard and that we will have a clear channel to ensure that it reaches people; that the 'channels' will not be tampered with by the adversary , but that it will be sown in deep and well-received soil.'
In order to be able to continue the Lord's work we need to live a life that is pleasing to God. First of all, without faith it is impossible to please God. To spread God's word we will have had first-hand experience of the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, having accepted Him into our lives by faith, for it is through God's Holy Spirit living in us, can we live a life pleasing to Him. We need to walk by the Spirit, be led by the Spirit, live by the Spirit, if we are willing to submit to God. The more we draw close to God, the more learn to love Him, the more we will want to please Him.
This brings me to 1 Thessalonians 4:1 where Paul is building up and teaching the church on how to live in order to please God. Here we read the word once again, 'finally.' The whole chapter is devoted to living a Godly life that others can see Jesus living in us.
To the Galation church Paul wrote, 'Finally, let no-one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.' Life isn't always easy being a Christian, no more than it's easy to witness. Here Paul was speaking out against those who were opposing the faith; people who were persecuting Paul for what he was teaching and for who he believed in. Here he was making a stand saying, 'Finally, let NO-ONE cause me trouble.....'
How often have we found ourselves in a situation where people try to cause trouble or oppose the the Christian message? Like Paul we need to make a stand, and say, 'Nothing will stop us spreading His word.....let NO-ONE cause us trouble, for we know whom we have believed and we will continue to share the Word of God, even if it means suffering the ridicule that might come our way.'
How do we deal with this?
How can we be strong in Christ and in our faith? Ephesians 6:10 gives us the answer! The Armour of God is the best armour that anyone can ever put on! 'FINALLY, BE STRONG IN THE LORD AND IN HIS MIGHTY POWER. PUT ON THE FULL ARMOUR OF GOD SO THAT YOU CAN TAKE YOUR STAND AGAINST THE DEVIL'S SCHEMES.' What a statement! What armour! When we are being prayed for; when we are living a life pleasing to God, troubles will come, but oh, what weapons we can wield as we spread the Word of God! 'Finally, BE STRONG IN THE LORD.......'
You know, Paul strikes me as a very happy Christian despite the persecution he encountered! We read in Philippians 3:1 'Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord!' Further on in the chapter Paul reveals what that statement meant. In the tough times we need to grasp hold of what it means to be in union with the Lord Jesus Christ, what He has done for us, and to rejoice in these facts. For it is at these times when we are struggling and facing difficult circumstances that we should be 'rejoicing in the Lord.' Paul goes on to say in verse 7, 'But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ- the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.'
And now .......FINALLY.......the second letter to the Corinthians was written at a rather difficult time for Paul regarding relations to the church in Corinth. But, Paul was only interested in reconciliation and repentance from the people. Why? So that in all things God's Word is heard, and God is glorified. So in conclusion, as we take to our hearts the 'finally's' that Paul so frequently included in his letters, there is one more reference I want to leave you all with. 'Finally brothers, good-bye. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.'(2 Corinthians 13:11)
We need to pray for each other, we need to live a life that is pleasing to God, we need to be able to withstand the sufferings we encounter by being prepared; being strong in the Lord and in His mighty power, rejoicing in Him always and being united in Christ! Paul indeed, taught well in his day, and His teachings by the Holy Spirit can still help us to apply those lessons in our lives today!
(All Bible referernces taken from the New International Version.NIV)