Beginning a task is something that many of us enjoy.  Finishing, however, can often be the challenge.

With the New Year comes an opportunity to begin with a fresh start.  Cleaning closets, being on time, reading the Bible and being more financially responsible are just a few of the items that may appear on our lists.

As many of you have done, I made my own personal list of resolutions for 2010.  I also prayed for supernatural intervention to help keep my commitments.  After all, I seem to begin with great fervor, but over time, my interests wane.

Finishing strong is a reoccurring theme throughout the Bible, and one that we must implement in our lives as Christians if we are to "run the race with endurance." Just as a runner must learn how to pace themselves for long distances, we must learn how to pace ourselves when problems arise.

In John 16:33, Jesus reminds us, "In this world you will have tribulation, but take heart!  I have overcome the world."   As Christians, we have One who is "able to do exceedingly above all that we could think or ask."  But how does that work in a practical way?  How can we finish strong when we are surrounded by difficulty?

In 1 Timothy 2:4, Paul serves as a great example of finishing strong.  During his last moments of life in prison, Paul writes to Timothy encouraging him to "keep his head in all situations, endure hardship, and do the work of the ministry."  Pretty amazing, isn't it?  Instead of laying down in his cell to die, Paul scribbles words that would drastically impact lives of Christians forever.

One of his greatest writings echoes from the hollow cavern of that prison cell.  Paul clearly demonstrates determination to not only overcome but thrive in the middle of the problem.  Nothing could keep him from continuing the work God called him to do -- even the impending threat of death.

So how can we live like Paul during difficult times? First, we must be willing to accept what we cannot change.  Paul was imprisoned unjustly and sentenced to die, yet he chose to focus on how he could make the most of his final moments.  When we learn to accept the things that we cannot change, we allow room for God to move on our behalf.  While we do what God has called us to do in the middle of the problem, we trust Him to do those things that we cannot do.

Secondly, we refuse to live in self pity.  Self pity obliterates God and puts self on the throne.  In essence, self pity says that God does not really know what he is doing, and that we know best.   When we indulge in self pity, we deny the power of God and focus only on our expectations and will.  Trust is the opposite of self pity.  When we trust God, self pity is denied because we know that God is faithful and has our best interests at heart.

We must also learn to forgive in order to finish strong.  How many relationships are tarnished or destroyed because we insist on nursing a grudge? It is impossible to finish strong with God, others, or ourselves if we continue to hold on to the bitter root of unforgiveness. If we are to cross the finish line and hear "well done good and faithful servant," we must trust that God is our vindicator and that He will repay for the harm done to us.

Finally, we must be peacemakers. Peacemakers would rather be reconciled than be right. As the curtains began to close on Paul's life, he did not focus on those who had unjustly abused and mistreated him.  Instead, he encouraged generations of those that he would never meet from the hollow walls of his prison cell.  Paul put his final stamp of faith on paper when he wrote: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." From that cell, hidden from all humanity, comes a voice that will echo through the end of time. Paul knew how to finish strong.  He treasured the "crown of righteousness" that was awaiting him and did not lose his focus in the most difficult times.