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Failure At The Finish Line Part 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
August 5, 2021 1:00 am

Failure At The Finish Line Part 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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August 5, 2021 1:00 am

Have you ever experienced overwhelming disappointment? Moses led Israel for 40 years yet, because of one mistake, God told him, “You can’t enter the land.” How would you handle such a loss? In this message we discover how Moses faced his own personal “failure at the finish line.”

 Click here to listen (Duration 25:02)

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Bitter disappointment. Moses leads Israel for 40 years, and for one mistake God says, you can't enter the land.

How would you handle such burning despair? Today, how Moses faced his own personal failure at the finish line. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, today you'll take us again into Psalm 90 as you conclude your series on getting closer to God.

You know, Dave, I love Psalm 90, and one of the reasons is because it is a very plaintive Psalm. Moses is reminiscing. He's remembering his failure. He wanted to get into the land, but God said no because Moses had been disobedient. He tried to talk God into changing his mind until God says, Moses, don't talk to me about this again. So he accepted God's discipline. Now here's the interesting thing.

Moses teaches us the fact that we can all fail at the finish line. You know, this series of messages, I believe, has been a blessing to thousands upon thousands of people. Would you like to have it permanently so that you can listen to it again and again? We're making that available to you, this resource. Here's what you do.

Go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Ask for the series of messages getting closer to God. And now let us listen to God's holy word. I want you to notice three contrasts in Psalm 90. First of all, there is a contrast between the frailty of man and the eternality of God. He begins by saying, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations before the mountains were born, or thou didst give birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting. Thou art God.

But notice the contrast. Thou sayest to us, to us turn back into the dust. Return, O children of men. Jesus says, for a thousand years in thy sight are like yesterday when it passes by or as a watch in the night. He says in verse 5, we are like grass that is here today and is gone tomorrow. We are planted and then we disappear and another generation comes. First of all, I want you to understand the eternality of God. From everlasting to everlasting, God endures, though throughout all generations we come and go, but God is always there. Do you realize that statement that God is from everlasting, not only into eternity, but also from eternity past? This past week I was having lunch with Earl Bowers and we were discussing the fact that the age of the earth may not be a whole lot more than 15,000 years.

The evolutionary theory is based on an idea of uniformitarianism, which may or may not be true. But then I said to Earl, I said if the earth is only 15,000 years, what in the world, I guess there was no world at that time, but what was God doing with himself throughout all those ages of eternity? And Earl looked at me and said, you know, I'm surprised to hear that from you.

It was a very good, mild-loving rebuke. That was stupid for me to say that. Even if the earth is four billion years old or four trillion years, we still have a problem of what God was doing with himself in the eternity before that. Even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God. As for man, his days are as grass.

He's here today and he's gone tomorrow. And a thousand years are in thy sight are like yesterday, when we pray to God and say, oh, God, give me 10 more years or give me 20 more years. God, from his perspective, it sounds to him as if we're saying, God, give me one more second to live, two more seconds to live, and please, Lord, at the most, three more seconds to live.

That is all that I want. Because to God, it is but a moment of time, and we think it's a thousand years, the frailty of man and the eternality of God, and here is the problem. God has put eternity in our hearts, and there is something within us that wants us to be as eternal as God is, and we look around ourselves, change and decay all around we see, and one generation goes, and one generation comes, and we think that we're going to live a long time, and suddenly it is cut short.

No wonder we struggle so much. We are beings that want eternity, and all that we see is the decay of time. First contrast is the frailty of man and the eternality of God. Second contrast is the sinfulness of man and the holiness and mercy of God. Verse 7, for we have been consumed by thine anger and by thy wrath we have been dismayed. Thou hast placed our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy presence. Five times he uses the word wrath and anger in these verses, and he says we live our lives as a sigh. No matter how good it is, it always goes bad and sour, and in the end we recognize that we are in the presence of a holy and an awesome God, and we begin to see our sins, and even the secret sins, O God, are totally open in the light of thy countenance, and we ask ourselves, how can we possibly live? And then there is a final contrast, and that is between our sighing and our desires and God's fulfillment of them. He says in verse 13, do return, O Lord, how long will it be, and be sorry for thy servants.

Satisfy us in the morning with thy loving kindness that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. What is the answer to Moses' plight? The answer is to recognize that in this fleeting life, and it is fleeting, especially to God, in this fleeting life, even though we wander in the desert, and remember that Moses was in that desert for 38 years, not because of his own unbelief but because of the unbelief of others, and there are some of you here who are going through trials, not of your own making. It's just that somebody else put you into that desert.

You are in a ship that is going somewhere, and you are going in that ship, but you are not the captain, but you must go with it because of your family, because of your circumstances, and you feel as if you are in that mess, not because of anything you did but because of those around you. Moses lived that way, as did Caleb and Joshua, but he's saying, oh God, in the desert of our failure, in the desert of our discipline, satisfy us early with thy mercy. God, help us to understand that when we get plugged into you, we then become as eternal as you are and will live forever, and this great desire that we have to be eternal beings will be fulfilled. You understand now why there are so many suicides? Do you understand why it is that the world is so frustrated is that God made us for himself. He made us that we might be satisfied only by him, and people are pouring into their lives every conceivable pleasure, every conceivable relationship. They are trying to plug up their lives with everything that cannot, that cannot ever, ever satisfy, for we have been created by God. Satisfy us early with thy mercy.

Yesterday, my wife and I drove to Michigan to be with some friends who were celebrating their 50th anniversary. We had a great time, great talk in that car, good communication, but I came home and I needed to get alone with God to be satisfied with the Lord. You've had that experience too, where no matter how good the human relationships are, there's something within that says, I need to be with God. So the psalmist says, our desire is for eternity and we can come to God and we can be satisfied with him. And then he says, establish the work of our hands.

This is in the last part of verse 17. Confirm for us the work of our hands. Yes, confirm the work of our hands. You see, there's something within us that says, I want to make sure that I last forever and that what I do has some repercussions forever.

And yet our experience is totally contrary to that. You work hard and people forget about it. I've written some things and they may have been published once and never republished. They're gone.

Nobody reads them. They're gone. And you've had the experience of doing something and it is like building a sandcastle along the sea. The water comes and it is gone.

The flood of 1993 along the Mississippi River. People say, I lost everything I ever had. It's gone. How then do we live eternally? How then can there possibly be meaning for life knowing that eventually everything that we have will be gone in that sense?

Well, the answer is there in the text. Establish thou. Confirm thou the work of our hands. And if it is done for God, the teaching of Scripture is that it isn't gone. It is lasting forever.

D. L. Moody has been gone since 1899, but look at his impact that continues and how come it has continued? It is because his life's verse is on his tombstone there in Northfield. He that doeth the will of God abideth forever. That's the answer to the human dilemma. What is the answer to our desire for eternity? Jesus Christ said, come and believe on me and you will live forever. What is the answer to our problem of our sinfulness? Christ became dust for us. He united dust and divinity. He united God and man and died for us so that we could be accepted by a holy God. And what is the answer to the desire that we have within our soul but to come to him to drink, to be refreshed, to be strengthened even if we are experiencing a desert that is not of our own making?

I think a key verse in this psalm is verse 12. So teach us to number our days. Now I don't number my days. If you came to me and said, how old are you? If I'm in a good mood and I usually am, I might tell you how old I am in years, but I have no idea as to how many days I've lived. But you see, Moses numbered not only his days, he could actually number the length of the days he was still to live.

And so could the people in the desert. When God says you're going to wander in the desert 40 years, there's a man who's 20 years old who says to his wife, you know, I'm 20 or 21. If you were 20, you got to go into the land.

You were considered the younger generation. At the age of 21, he says, I know that I'm going to be dead by age 61 at the best of circumstances because God says all of us are going to die and we aren't going to see the land. When Moses had this experience there in which he disobeyed God and God says you're not entering into the land that was the beginning of the 40th year, he knew that they had to be in the land by the end of the year and that meant at best he had 12 months.

So he could begin to number his days. But the lesson of this text is that all of us must number our days that we might apply our hearts onto wisdom. We must live every single day as if it might be our last, recognizing that God has numbered our days and we must do all that we possibly can to live however many days he gives us for him and for his glory. And when we do that, we will be satisfied within and God will establish the work of our hands. Yes, I know people in the media are saying in the Mississippi flood we lost everything. But I want you to know today that the Christians have lost nothing that will be of any kind of eternal significance. Every deed done, every good act done in the name of Christ, every prayer that was offered, every crop that was plowed for the glory of Christ will remain eternally no matter what the floods do. And so we come to the end of the life of Moses.

God takes him to the top of Nebo, says look this way, look that way, see the land. And then the Bible says that God personally buried him. It's almost as if the Lord says I don't want to leave this responsibility to anybody else. I don't want to delegate any of the responsibility.

I want to do it myself. And then you remember it says in the book of Jude that there was a dispute about the body of Moses. Satan wanted it and Michael the archangel was getting into the act and rebuked the devil. And so Moses was buried somewhere and then you know that eventually he did get into the land on the mount of transfiguration as recorded in the New Testament. But for us at this point in history, the curtain closes.

And what do you have? All that you have is Moses left with his God. That's all. Once he was gone, it didn't matter how much criticism the people had given him. It didn't matter how many years they grumbled. It didn't matter what names they had called him.

It didn't matter how much they assailed his very motives and his integrity. Nothing mattered because there was a new generation but Moses was now left alone with his God. Will you remember that God is with us in our failures?

God was with Moses after Moses was told that his days had been severely numbered. And God was with him to say, Moses, I have an answer for your frailty. It is my eternality. I have an answer for your sinfulness. It is my mercy and your forgiveness. I have an answer for the deep desire of your soul. I will satisfy you. I have an answer for that desire to do something that lasts forever.

I will establish the work of your hands. And the bottom line is, teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. Reverend Francis Light was a minister in Scotland dying of an incurable disease. He met with his congregation to say goodbye in a very, very emotional farewell. And a few days later looking around and back on that experience, he wrote, change and decay all around I see. All thou who changest not abide with me. Let us pray. Our Father, we thank you for your faithfulness and for your love and thank you that you are with us in the wilderness. Thank you, Father, that you did not abandon Moses, though he disobeyed you.

To the end of his day you are still satisfying him and you are still establishing the work of his hands. Now encourage us, and for those who do not know Christ as Savior, we pray that they may recognize him to be their bridge to God, the one who forgives and cleanses and makes right. Before I close this prayer, if you need to talk to God, would you just talk to him at this moment? Say, oh God, I come to you in the name of Jesus and I want to believe on you and I want to trust you to be my Savior. And for those of you who know him as Savior, say I want to trust you in my desert experience. Come to me and satisfy me right where I am in my need.

You talk to him. Hear our prayer, oh Lord, for we are needy. In Jesus' name, amen. Well, my friend, today I hope that you take time to read Psalm 90. As you listen to Moses, pour out his heart to God as he thinks of the past, he thinks of his failures, but he also thinks about the faithfulness and the eternality of God.

Have you been blessed as a result of this series of messages? Would you like to have these sermons permanently so that you can listen to them again and again? Today is the last day we're making that resource available to you.

Here's what you can do. Go to Ask for the series Getting Closer to God, or if you prefer, call us at 1-888-218-9337. Now I'm going to be giving you that contact info again, because as I mentioned, this is the last opportunity you will have. We are making this resource available to get these sermons so that they can be yours.

Go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337. As a result of the series of messages that we have just been listening to on Running to Win, people will be encouraged, they'll be admonished, and helped. Ask for the series of messages Getting Closer to God, because that, of course, is the desire of all of our hearts. It's time now for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. Today, we have a question from a very perceptive listener, a question that goes to the very heart of what being saved really means.

Here's what John writes. Based on the Scriptures, can we separate salvation by grace from discipleship? Some say that discipleship is an option that won't influence our eternal destiny, because our salvation is eternally secure once we believe in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.

But Dietrich Bonhoeffer thinks we cannot separate the two. He talks about cheap grace and costly grace. The costly grace calls us to follow Christ, which means discipleship. And no one is saved by cheap grace, which, in his opinion, is used as a dispensation from following Christ. He says the only man who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who is left all to follow Christ. Pastor Lutzer, what's your opinion about this dilemma? John, I want to commend you, because you've asked a very, very important question. And you know, believe it or not, it's not one that I can just answer by saying yes or no.

What we need to do is to separate a couple of things, and we need to think clearly. And I hope we think biblically about the answer to your question. First of all, I do believe that those who are truly saved will be saved. Now, you can say, well, if you believe on Jesus and then don't follow him, that's cheap grace. Well, looked at from another way, it is very expensive grace, because it has come to us from Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ purchased us, and that is never cheap grace. When we believe on Christ, we always know that we are believing in grace that really cost God plenty.

So first of all, let me clarify that. Secondly, it's very important for us to realize that Bonhoeffer, in saying what he did—and by the way, I am a great admirer of Bonhoeffer—but in saying what he did, he came close to teaching that we are saved by grace and by works, because what he's saying is, if I believe in Jesus and then don't follow him, then my salvation is jeopardized. Somehow, my discipleship adds to what Jesus Christ did.

Seems to me that that's what he's saying. But now, having said that, I don't mean to say that we can believe in Jesus and then live as we please, because obviously, first of all, we are called to discipleship as an outgrowth of our faith. We are saved onto good works, and if someone has no desire to do good works and to follow Christ after they say they are saved, I have to doubt whether they are truly saved. Furthermore, if we backslide as Christians, God disciplines us, and if we're not disciplined, the Bible says that then we are not true sons. So I guess I need to summarize by saying, yes, I believe that those who are truly saved will be saved. Yes, we should be involved in discipleship. That's what we are called to as a result of our salvation. But there are going to be Christians who will be saved so as by fire.

They will be in heaven, but they'll have no good works to show for it—pathetic but saved. Think about it, John, and God help all of us to think clearly about these matters. Some wise counsel from Dr. Erwin Lutzer. Thank you, Pastor Lutzer. If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to our website at and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer, or call us at 1-888-218-9337. That's 1-888-218-9337.

You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. At the end, all that remains is God. That's why He is the goal of the race of life. Today, Erwin Lutzer concluded his message, Failure at the Finish Line. This was the last in a series of 12 messages about the life and times of Moses, a man getting closer to God. Next time, we begin a series taken from the parables of Jesus. Join us for You Can't Redo Life. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-17 16:17:21 / 2023-09-17 16:26:05 / 9

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