Dan Sherick - Began, Continued, Finished - Saginaw, OR 2010

There was a young worker over there in the Ukraine and every year at convention he said the same thing. And what did he say? "Another year." And the next year he would say the same thing. So, maybe I'll say it to you here, because he is not here - it is another year. They go by pretty quickly and soon eternity will dawn. Maybe for somebody this is their first convention. And maybe for some people that are here today this will be their last convention, we don't know. I like to go back to my very first convention that was in Illinois . I was 21 when I made my choice. We were Lutherans as I grew up. Mother made her choice when I was 16. I never went to convention until I was just 22. The reason why I didn’t go to convention before I was 22 was because I didn't want to go to convention. But when I made my choice I was really hungry and I wanted to go. I remember the meetings and what we heard and it was a great time. Until about Saturday almost no young people had given their testimony. I remember the testimony I gave that Saturday afternoon. Basically I said, I know I am young and have a long ways to go and I could go a long ways if I have faith and willingness to go and I will. Then I said, I must go a long ways to go all of the way.

Today I am going to speak about beginning, continuing and finishing. We have a hymn that has those words in it, no. 28:

"Began, continued, finished,
The crown of life they won;
Hark! As their voices call US,
The race of life to run."

So that is the subject for today. My sister went to convention with my mother about two or three years earlier than I; she wanted to go to convention. She was about14 at the time when she went to her first convention. She made her choice and put all of her heart into it. My mother was a college professor's wife, and quite a fancy lady. She made her choice and made all of the changes in her life that she could that was possible, as soon as she could, with all her heart. Anyway, my sister went off to convention with my mother and you know, she kind of looked like a sister worker but she was too young. It was one of the other girls at convention that said to Linda, your mother must be pretty strict. My sister said, "Well, our mother loves us." She was headed in the right direction and a few years later she was a sister worker. I was thinking about my father, he went to his first convention when he was almost 71. He was 70 when he made his choice, 50 years after my mother made her choice. He was a grumpy old college professor. It was hard to live with him. My mother wrote me a letter one time after they had been married for 46 years. She said, "Your father did something today that he has never done before in 46 years. The first time he admitted that he was wrong about something." I think that just meant that he was a typical man. He was always right and it's hard to live with a husband who is always right, but that's the kind of man he was. Now here at the age of 70 he made his choice. I wasn't there to hear his first testimony but there were plenty of others that told me about it. He said, "Frank Tyson, who is a brother worker that was in their field for several years, once told about the old mule that didn't want to get up. His master raised his voice a little bit and he still wouldn't get up then he shouted at the old mule and he still wouldn't get up so he took a 2 x 4 and hit him over the head." Then my father said, "I am that old mule." That was his first testimony, quite an admission for an old college professor who had always been right to say that he had been stubborn, very stubborn. Sometimes they say there are two kinds of people: there are stubborn people and very stubborn people. Well, in our family it is the men who are very stubborn. Well, he finally began and started to go.

Of course we know this could be our last convention. There was a young man that came to convention, I think it was in New Mexico. He had come quite a ways to be at that convention and he was talking to a young brother worker after the convention who had not been in the work too long a time. This young brother worker had not too long previously been engaged to this other young man's sister. The young man, Jim, said, "You know, I have been thinking that I too should give my life to this work like you have." He was a very serious young man and he was going out from convention to go further and maybe even possibly go into the work, asking God now what should he do? On the way home on his motorcycle, because of a crazy driver, he went into eternity. But he had in his heart that he wanted to do God's will and he wanted to go all the way. Well, I guess he did go all the way but the journey was much shorter than what he expected. That was his last convention.

In Switzerland there was a family that had 14 children. That is quite a few. One little boy who was only five and his auntie was one of the sister workers. The sister workers had stayed with them there for a week or two before convention preps began and every day his auntie, Johanna, would read him something out of the Bible, tell a story out of the Bible. Preps began and the sister workers had to leave and he was kind of sad because they were not there anymore. A week or two he went off with his father and mother brothers and sisters to convention. I don't know how they got there; maybe they had a large car. When the convention was over that little fellow said to his daddy, "I don't want to leave here. I want to stay with these people for ever and ever." His dad said, "But we have to go home." So, he obeyed his father but about two weeks later there was an accident and that five-year-old little boy went into eternity. His father remembered what he had said about two weeks before, "I want to be with these people for ever and ever." I don't think a little five-year-old boy could be more ready for eternity then he was. He loved the workers, he loved the meetings, and he wanted to be with these people for ever and ever.

I was just up in Washington visiting a couple that I had met in Austria in 1988, Bill and Marian, anyway about five months ago the doctor told Bill that he had only six months to live. And the doctor told Marian that she had only two or three years to live. We had several days and nights together and good visits and a convention together. Bill made a trip up there to Milltown 2 for another day of convention because he just had a feeling that this might be his last convention, maybe not. Anyway, sometimes it's going to be the last convention. Let’s think a little more about this thought: began, continued, finished. We know that to begin in God's family we must be born again.

There was a younger man over there in Romania whose name was Costel. At his first meeting, there were only four of us there, in his neighbour’s home, he had two questions. The first question was, "Does the true church exist today?" And the second question was, "How do you become born again?" He said he was a member of the Baptist church and had been for three years and they are always talking about being born again. How do you become born again? I would like to be born again but I know that I am not yet. So I told Costel, "God sees your desire, you keep on praying and you keep on reading your Bible and doing God's will and He will show you. That is God’s business and we can't do it. Just pray, not my will but thine be done. When you are born again you will find yourself in God's family and that will be the true church and God will give an answer to both questions. We won't try to answer those questions today." About two nights later this young man made his choice, he understood what that meant. As I mentioned, there are two kinds of people, stubborn people and very stubborn people. Now there are two kinds of births, a difficult birth and a very difficult birth. There is no easy way to get around it. Being born again is not easy. It is a great struggle and it is a great thing when people finally give in. If I were to give my testimony, I would have to think a little bit about the caterpillar and the cocoon and the butterfly. A caterpillar is a beautiful little creature and they are always crawling around on the ground and looking for something to eat. They are always wanting to eat and eat and eat, really selfish little creatures but they can't fly, of course. Over there where I labour in the Ukraine they are always asking me about a typical American and I tell them that a typical American sits in front of a television set eating potato chips and drinking beer, anyway he's just kind of a big old caterpillar, looking for something for himself. We know that the only way for a caterpillar to become butterfly is to be in a cocoon. Now, I happened to find myself in a cocoon for about five years. It is kind of dark in there, in the cocoon. My mother made her choice when I was 16 and I knew that this way was the right away, it was the truth. And I knew that if I believe it and was going to walk in this way it would mean I would be doing God's will and not my will and I was afraid what that was going to lead to. Actually I thought that if I ever made my choice how am I going to get out of being a worker? It kind of scares you doesn't it? Anyway, I didn't make my choice right away. I had my worldly friends and I would go with them and they were doing some things that weren't too good. Somehow I could not do the things that they were doing. That was back in the days of the hippies with their long hair and beards and smoking marijuana and all of those kinds of things but I could not do what they were doing. I didn't have the freedom of the caterpillar. I would go with my mother and my sisters to the meeting on Sunday morning and heard them giving their testimonies and they seemed to be happy and enjoying themselves. I didn't have any peace, I didn’t have any joy, I just felt condemned. I just felt like a fish out of water. I didn't have the freedom of the butterfly nor did I have the freedom of the caterpillar. I was kind of like in jail you might say. I had thought before that if you make your choice to serve God then you can't do this and you can't do that, so many things that you can't do. Kind of like being in prison. Actually I was inside the cocoon and it was dark and it was lonely and I had no freedom. When the caterpillar gets out of the cocoon it becomes a butterfly and it has spiritual life. It goes from one sweet thing to another. We like to have this freedom of the butterfly.

Maybe I'll just tell a little bit about my father. Maybe first I should say something further about this being born again. I was on a home visit and I was in Michigan for a convention. There was a lady who gave her testimony and that was the most interesting testimony at that convention for me, I still remember it. She stood up and all she said was, "It took me 21 years to be born." Well, okay. After the meeting I tried to look her up and found her eventually and I said, "Now, what did you mean by your testimony?" She said, "I made my choice when I was 14 and now I am 35. I never had real joy and peace until this year." It took her 21 years to be born. Making your choice and being born does not mean exactly the same thing. For some it may be sooner and some later. How long was she in the cocoon? We would like to have this new life that only God can give. Now I’ll mention a little bit about my father because he is probably the best example of a beginning as a little child. About two years after he had made his choice, I got to go home and visit him. By this time I was getting my weekly letter from my father. My father had a perfect record until that time; he had never written me one letter. After he made his choice to serve God he had a perfect record, he wrote me a letter every week. So he changed. I still remember the first letter. "Dan, I don't know why I didn't understand this before, but now I do. I did not know true love before, but now I do." At the end of the letter he said, "I am the happiest man in the world." After a couple of years it was arranged that I go home to see my father because his health was not very good. He had been in the hospital actually in a coma for two months and in intensive care for three months before he made his choice. Now he had made his choice and I had a chance to go home and meet my new father. It was Saturday night we were sitting in the living room and for the first time in my life I see my father reading his Bible. He said, "Dan, I have been reading here in Zechariah, is it talking about Jesus’ second coming?" I thought to myself, "Dad why are you reading in Zechariah, you should be reading in Matthew or Mark." But I said, "I think you are probably right." So then the next morning I get to hear my father's testimony for the first time. He said, "I have been reading in the book of Zechariah," and I thought, "Oh no!" He said, "Here it tells us that God told them to measure the city of Jerusalem and I think that God wants to measure me. He wants to see if my faith is right and my love is growing," and that was all he said, just like little child. So the next week I get to hear his testimony for the second time. This time he spoke about the idols in Samaria . He said, "You know, I have been thinking about these idols in Samaria, there were so many of them. Why were there so many idols in Samaria? The answer is that they didn't have a living God so they had all of these idols instead. If they had had a living God they wouldn’t have had to have all of those idols. Today there are so many different religions and I wondered why they have so many different religions today." He said, the answer is the same: "If they had a living God there would not be all of these religions they would just have God and that would be a true faith." So then on Monday we were sitting around the table talking and Dad said, "Dan, you know what I said in the meeting yesterday? Was that okay?" So here he was asking his little boy. Anyway, my dad had become a little child and it was a big joy to everybody. I just might mention this that when my dad was in the hospital the doctor didn't hold out much hope of his recovering before he made his choice, I got a letter from a lady back home. A young professing woman and she said, "The whole world is praying for your dad, the whole world." Of course that was not true because I don't think the people in Oregon were praying for him, they didn’t know him. What she meant was that everyone there in Iowa that knew him was praying for him because his son and daughter were in the work and he had been coming to the gospel meetings but he had not made his choice. Well, it's good thing that other people are praying. When he did make his choice it probably brought great joy to a lot of people that had been praying for him.

I think I might just as well mention this about me and my testimony. I think about that man in Mark 2 who had the palsy and was borne of four to Jesus you know; they let him down through the roof. I just kind of think this way; I did have grandmother who was professing. She was kind of the key to us finding the truth. My mother was away from home when she found the truth. My grandmother was widow with five children and was looking for something that would satisfy. She went to one church, then another, then another and another. It was always the same story. Finally one day after going to the last one and being disappointed again she came home and fell on her knees and prayed. She wept and said, "God I have done everything that I know; now you have to do something." Ten days later two sister workers knocked on her door and told her that there were meetings just down the road in the schoolhouse. After the first meeting she said, "I have found what I was looking for." My mother was away from home; she had gone off and got married to this college professor. Anyway, by this time my mother had professed as well as my grandmother. My two sisters, one eight years younger than me and one four years younger than me had made their choice also. So here I had four, my grandmother, my mother and two sisters all praying for me. I didn’t have a chance. This man with the palsy was borne of four and I believe I was also. Don't forget to pray for others because it is not in vain.

I thought I would mention this first miracle that Jesus did in John chapter 2. This is the miracle where Jesus turned water into wine. Jesus' mother, Mary, said, "They have no wine." We can think of the water as being God's word. Jesus said, "Now are you clean through the word I have spoken unto you." That is like the water of his word. In Psalm 104, it speaks about the wine which maketh glad the heart of man. That is something different, wine is not water. Wine brings a warmth and a power and it says that wine maketh glad the heart of man. So, in the Bible wine might be a symbol of joy. Well, we were having some meetings once a week in a tuberculosis hospital, seven women who had tuberculosis in one room. We would go once a week and have a little meeting with these seven women. One time I spoke on John 2 and I asked, "Do any of you have any joy and any hope?" They all said, "No, no joy and no hope." I said, "Good, very good, because there was no wine but there might be a miracle." It's pitiful when there is no wine. When Jesus turned the water to wine he could have turned the wine that wasn't so good to better wine. But no, he waited until the wine had run out completely. That is what happens in people when there is no joy and there is no peace and no hope. It seems that you are down to zero. That is when God begins to speak and to work.

We have heard several times in the meetings already about the one faith. If someone was to ask you, what is the one faith? What would you say? The one faith is not believing in God but believing God. Abraham had faith and God spoke to Abraham and Abraham believed God. That is the one faith, the faith of Abraham. That is when we believe God and obey. We would like to have that faith and follow Jesus. That would be the faith of Jesus not just faith in Jesus. So anyway let's think about this miracle that took place. There were four conditions: first of all there was no wine and secondly there was water, lots of water. Thirdly there were the servants that obeyed Jesus when he said take this water to the governor of the feast. So that was three of the conditions. Can anyone tell me what was the fourth condition for this miracle? Well, Jesus was there that was the fourth condition then the miracle could take place. I like to think that this is the miracle that takes place in any human life. There is new life spiritually because the water is turned into wine. I remember when I made my choice. Before that I never read my Bible and then when I started to read it I got a shock or two. One day I came home from school and I was so distressed and so troubled and in my distress I tried to pray. I couldn't pray. So what do you do? You have no comfort and no peace. I took my Bible which I had never read, opened it and read one verse and slammed the Bible shut, it was too much for me. Here was the answer from God, Luke 6 verse 46: "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” That woke me up a little bit. It was a couple of weeks later that I made my choice. I had had this feeling of being in prison, I can't do this and I can't do that, but I was looking for anything that would give me some peace. It was what you would call a very difficult birth and I won't go into all of the details. I tried to run away from the last meeting but my sister chased me down and got me to that last meeting. When they sang the last verse of that hymn I didn't stand up but then they sang that last verse over and before it was through the second time I did stand up. I was beat, I will tell you. Just like a little baby when it is born, it was quite a process. But you know, I got a surprise. Now the Bible was alive and sometimes would read the Bible four hours a day. It gave me comfort and there was struggle and lots of tears. It was just like the water had turned into wine.

I told you what my father had said; "Now I am the happiest man in the world." So the water had turned into wine for him also. Okay, so that maybe is enough for the beginning. Began, continue and finish. So I have found the way and I am in the way but being in the way and walking in the way are two different things. Suppose that I am in the way but not walking in the way, well, I am not going to be in the way. Just in the way of someone walking in the way. So, we don't want to be just in the way, we want to be walking in the way, making progress. To continue doesn't just mean to stay in the way or to continue in the work, it means to go further. I remember that when I was a boy we would take our trips out to Colorado from Iowa on old Highway 30 and it took a long time to get there. There were no interstate highways back then. My little sister would say to Dad, "How much further is it?" He would say, "Just a little bit further." I think that we could put it this way, there is no one here that has gotten there yet, so then what do we have to do? We have to go further. We have found the way but we have to go further. When Paul wrote to the Philippians (1:25) he said, "I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith." He was encouraging them to go further. We want to encourage people to go further. Okay, let me give you an example. The American way is to buy something on the installment plan. Maybe that's not so easy to do now with the economy crunch. The old way was to buy a car and pay so much a month and that was called the installment plan. So you get this loan and you start paying it off and you have it for a year or two and you still have a lot to pay. Then maybe you say I don't think I can make the payments anymore and what is going to happen? If you can't pay the price, what is going to happen? You might lose the car. You have been paying on it for a year and a half or two years and then stop paying, you lose the car. You need to continue to pay until the whole price is paid; otherwise you are going to lose what you have. The same thing happens spiritually, you need to continue to pay. Those wise and foolish virgins: the foolish ones didn't continue to pay. They had a little oil at the beginning but they didn't continue to pay and their oil ran out and they didn’t have oil when they needed it. One of the workers in Switzerland told a story about going through the mountains in Switzerland with a group of workers at special meeting time. I don't know who was driving and if I did know I wouldn’t say. They passed up a gas station and the driver said we are in a hurry so we are not going to stop and get gas; we have enough to get there. So they passed three or four more gas stations on the way. Then all of a sudden they came to a stop on top of a mountain there someplace and there were still a few mountains and valleys between them and the next gas station. They were stuck. The worker that spoke about it said that was just like the foolish virgins. They had many chances to pay but they just hadn't paid the price. So, stop, take the time and pay the price. When I came across from Ukraine to Canada recently by plane, I didn’t know the way to the airport very well so I took a taxi. Over there taxi drivers usually only have a few quarts of gasoline in the tank because it is expensive. So anyway, we took off in this old taxi and all of a sudden the engine died because there was no more gas in the tank. Fortunately it was a downhill coast to the gas station. Maybe some of you feel that way coming to a convention. You are out of gas but it's a downhill coast to convention, so fill her up, okay. I don't think that you ever get filled up.

I am going to take you back to Luke 14:28 -- 30. Most of you know that this is a little parable that Jesus gave about building a tower. "Which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he has sufficient to finish it? Lest happily after he has laid the foundation and is not able to finish it, all who behold it begin to mock him, saying, this man began to build and was not able to finish." So there is a question, we started to build; do we have sufficient to finish it? We have started and we want to continue and can we finish? Do we have enough building materials to finish it right now? The answer to that is no. God has a storehouse and there is enough there for everyone in this building today to finish the tower. In fact there is enough in God's storehouse for everyone in the world to finish the tower. What is the price to get the materials? The price is submission, simply submission to God’s will. We have to be willing. I am going to take you now to a chapter in the Old Testament and I can tell you right now this is not your favourite chapter. I don't know if you have read this chapter but I would guess if you started reading this chapter you would probably skip over it and go to the next one. Numbers chapter 29: this is telling about the sacrifices at the feast of Tabernacles. There were three feasts in the Old Testament. The first one was the feast of trumpets and we will say that that was the beginning then there was the feast of the harvest when the first fruits were brought in. That was seven weeks after they first put in the sickle, and that, we might say, was the continuing. The last feast of the year was the ingathering when all of the harvest was brought in. This was the feast of Tabernacles where they dwelt in booths. These were temporary dwellings to remind them that they were strangers and pilgrims in the earth and that they would soon be passing on into eternity. So here we have the end and the finish. The feast of Tabernacles is a little bit of a picture of old age. I just noticed here that there are quite a few gray hairs. In the Ukraine we don't have too many. I am getting a few but as time goes on I am getting less and less. One of our friends there who has a convention on his place and he said, when the visitors come over here I always want to see if they have any grey hairs. Anyway it's nice to see people who are getting older knowing that some day they are going to come to the finish line. So here we have a picture of old age and maybe you who are older can take this to heart. Every day of this feast they brought some sacrifices, and this is where it gets boring. The first day they brought 13 bullocks, 14 lambs, 2 rams and one goat for a sin offering. The next day it was the same except one less bullock. This went on for seven days, one less bullock each day. Isn't that interesting? You probably had already skipped to the next chapter before you got to the second day. This is the picture of old age. The bullock is a symbol of strength and the lamb is a symbol of submission and there were the two rams. The two rams might symbolize a clear purpose and a strong determination. The one goat was for a sin offering, well you can't leave that out or everything else will be in vain. What happens when you get older? I don't know too much about that yet. It seems that you get weaker and weaker. One less bullock each day, less strength. There were 14 lambs, that was the biggest number, a symbol of submission and that never diminishes. It takes just as much submission to the very end. You say, God’s will be done no matter what the condition. You say the very same thing to the end. Submission to God's will, that is the price you have to pay. You still need that clear purpose and strong determination and the sin offering. That is a picture of old age. It also kind of makes me think of a car going to a certain destination. Well, you need a steering wheel, gasoline, a motor and you better not forget the brakes. The fear of God is kind of like the brakes. The brakes better work or you're going to get in trouble. The love of God is kind of like the motor, that is what keeps you going further and further.

In the book of Revelation and chapter two it speaks about the church of Ephesus. It says that they left their first love. I like to think of people that I knew that did not leave their first love as some of the best examples. When I was back there in Iowa there was a man named Glenn who had lost both legs because of diabetes. He could get out in his garden and kind of scoot around and do a little work and pull a few weeds. But mostly he just sat and read his Bible and prayed and visit with anyone who would come and visit with him. He said, "You know this is the best time of my life. I have never had so much time to read and pray until now." God was very merciful to him by giving him lots of time in old age to read and pray. He was looking on the bright side. In the Bible we read a lot about rain, the early and the latter rain. The seed needs that early warning. I remember when I made my choice the Bible was all new. You can't get enough of it hardly. But then sometime later in life, in the summer, it gets dry and that is when you need the latter rain. This man Glenn, was getting the latter rain. When he came to gospel meetings, we had a hall that had too many steps up. He would be the first one there and he would sit on the first step and then scoot up one step at a time to the top. He had not lost his first love. There was another man from Iowa, his name was Vernon. He was great for inviting people to gospel meeting. They might not come but he invited anyway. He was 75 years old and the sister workers came to his house one day and no one answered the door. They had a key so they went on in and found him lying on the floor. He had had a stroke and was in eternity. They had the funeral and there were 750 people there. About half of them were friends and the rest were people from the town. He was a very respected man in the town. So he got a lot of people to that meeting. There were about 15 people there at the visitation that told his widow that on the day that he died he had invited them to gospel meeting. That was quite a testimony. On the last day of his life he invited 15 people to gospel meeting and he got 350 outsiders to come. He had not lost his first love, trying to help other people to the last. That is the way that it is, you have found the truth and you're so happy with it that you want to invite everyone else to have what you have.

While we're talking about love, I am going to give you a little test. This test only has one question: "What do you do when you have free time? Well, you do what you love." You can think about that for yourself. I don't know the answer. Think about Abraham going up the mountain ready to offer up his son Isaac. You remember how God sent the angel to stay his hand. He raised his hand with the knife to slay his son Isaac but God stayed his hand and he saw the ram caught in the thicket so he didn't have to sacrifice his son. So what was in Abraham’s heart? He never loved his son more than he did now and he never loved God more than now. There was more love in Abraham's heart. We've heard about David, he failed miserably. He committed a big sin but God forgave him and he was restored. As a result he loved himself much less than before and he loved God more. What about the prodigal son? He came back out of the world to his father’s house. What was the result? He now hated the world; he had seen what was out there. Now, he loved his father more than ever. When we fail we are forgiven and we love God more. That is what God is looking for more then anything. Now, we are trying to find our way to the finish line, to go all the way. God has given us a map when he gave us the Bible. If you are going to use a map there are two things that you have to know, where you are and where you want to go. We were in Germany one time in the home of an American couple and there was another American couple that was coming to see them and they did not know their way very well and were trying to find their place. They called the home on a phone and said we cannot find your place, can you give us directions? They asked the question, where are you? The man said, "I don't know." Well, it was kind of hard to give directions. First of all, you have to see where you are before you can find the way to where you want to go.

Maybe now we should switch over to finishing. That is the most important thing. Began, continue and finish. There was a little lady back home, her name was Laura. She was 99 1/2 years old. We went to visit her in the hospital. She was bed fast at that time. She said to us, "You know, I can't do anything anymore. I can't even raise my hand anymore but she said I can say one thing; I love God with all my heart." We just thought that God was her witness. A month later she was in eternity. That was a beautiful finish, wasn't it? There was a lady over there in Luxembourg, her name was Margaret and she had cancer. She was just barely 60. She had a husband and several children. She had cancer and was dying slowly but here she was in the Sunday morning meeting. She was weeping when she was giving her testimony. She said, "Maybe you think that these tears that I am shedding are tears of sorrow and pain but these tears are not tears of sorrow and pain, they are tears of joy because soon I will be home." The next week she wasn't there, that was her last Sunday morning meeting and she was in eternity the next week. Now I will take you to a convention in Iowa in 1991. There was an older brother worker who had laboured in the Spanish work for many years. He was well up in his 80s and he had cancer. He was not expected to come to convention and he was not on the speakers list. But here he came for one day. When he got on the platform and spoke that was something that I will never forget. He read John 17:4 where Jesus said, "I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." He said, "I could say the same thing today that Jesus said, 'I have finished the work that thou gavest me to do.' It was like heaven was opened and God said what he said was true." He went on to say that I hope very soon I can say it is finished, it is finished. He was going to cross the finish line. It's a beautiful thing to see people finish like that. Thinking about Jesus when he finished like that, with the spirit of forgiving his enemies, thinking about his mother, helping the thief on the cross. That is the way he finished. Stephen finished the same way. It is a spiritual race and what you have to do to finish is to finish spiritually. If someone finishes a winner, it's not a sad thing, to finish a winner. Jesus looked like a loser, Stephen looked like a loser, but spiritually they were winners. When they finished with that kind of a spirit, they were winners. I suppose that anybody when they are sick and dying, getting thin with cancer, or whatever the case might be, might look like losers. But when they finish with a spirit like this, they are winners. It's nice to see people finish like that. The purpose of the convention is this: to help some people begin, to help others to continue and go further, and to help other people finish. That is the purpose of convention. We would like to be faithful in trying to help people to finish.

I'll tell you a little story from Holland. There was an older lady there, I think her name was Anna; I'm just not quite sure. I heard this story from another brother worker, Pete Bloekker. Pete said that this Anna had a nice little apartment above her that the workers quite often stayed in. Lots of friends came and went, a very open home. But then Anna came to the point where she just wasn't very able anymore. Friends would go to visit her but as the years went by they kind of forgot about her, so she wasn't getting very many visits anymore. At the special meeting time Pete gets up to preach from Matthew25: 40 "And the King shall answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me.'" He read that verse that way and then he read it in a different way: "Inasmuch as you have not done it unto Anna, you have not done it unto me." Well, after that she got a lot more visitors. He stirred them up and woke them up a little bit, didn't he? He was trying to get them to do their part in encouraging people to finish and go all the way. You know, workers have to finish too. I’ll just tell you one more story from Iowa. This is about a sister worker named Anna and she was strict, oh boys. The young girls were kind of afraid of her. If they did their hair a certain way or wore certain clothes, she would tell them. If their skirts were too short, better watch out for Anna, here she comes. She was strict. The last two years of her life she was cared for by the sister workers in different homes. If anybody did something for Anna, she was always very thankful. She was no problem and she never complained. She just had a perfect kind of a spirit, thanking them and not complaining. It was nice to see that, that was the way she was finishing up her days. There was fruit and it was ripe. When fruit gets ripe it gets very soft and sweet. Anyway, if we have some fruit that's not quite ripe, maybe still a little hard, it will have to ripen and turn soft and sweet then it is ready for the harvest. We want to have fruit like that to take us into eternity with joy and peace. We would like to be willing to go all the way and finish. When my dad finished 3 1/2 years after he professed, my mother wrote me a letter and said, "Your Dad made it first (meaning before her)." I'll tell you the feeling that I had when my dad died at 73 1/2 years. He went to the hospital and died rather quickly and went into eternity. I could have thought that God had taken my father away from me, but no, God has given my father to me. When Jesus died what would you say? God has taken Jesus away from us and now he is up in heaven. No, he gave Jesus to us. In Austria there were three Sunday morning meetings and now they're down to one and the friends were so unhappy and I asked them, "What happened to all of the people that used to come to meeting?" And they said, "They are in eternity." "Did they finish faithfully?" "Yes." Then you shouldn't be sad, you should be happy because they finished as winners. That is the main purpose of it all, to finish with a spirit like that.

Maybe we could sing that hymn number 28: Began, continued, finished.