Howard Hendricks
Howard Hendricks

Finishing Strong

One of my favorite teachers and speakers was Dr. Howard Hendricks. He taught at Dallas Theological Seminary for many years and also served as the chaplain for the Dallas Cowboys. He died in 2013. Dr. Hendricks tells a wonderful story that really touched and challenged me when I first heard it.

Some time ago I lost one of my best friends, a woman eighty-six years old, the most exciting lay teacher I’ve ever been exposed to.

The last time I saw her on planet Earth was at one of those aseptic Christian parties. We were sitting there on eggshells, looking pious, when she walked in and said, “Well, Hendricks, I haven’t seen you for a long time. What are the five best books you’ve read in the past year?”

She had a way of changing a group’s dynamics. Her philosophy was, let’s not bore each other with each other; let’s get into a discussion, and if we can’t find anything to discuss, let’s get into an argument.

She was eighty-three on her last trip to the Holy Land. She went there with a group of NFL football players. One of my most vivid memories of her is seeing her out front yelling back to them, “Come on, men, get with it!”

She died in her sleep at her daughter’s home in Dallas. Her daughter told me that just before she died, she had written out her goals for the next ten years.”

I remember someone saying that most people do not lead purposeful lives because for so many, life is nothing more than the meaningless passage of time. They have no vision for their lives, and have no meaningful objectives they are pursuing.

I think for modern America, the only real objective they have is to accumulate enough money so they can have a comfortable retirement and take it easy. Unfortunately so many end up looking for ways to pass time while sitting around waiting to die. I told a group of men recently I want to be like the man described by the writer of Psalm 92:

The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree,
He will grow like the cedar in Lebanon.
Planted in the house of the Lord,
They will flourish in the courts of our God.
They will still yield fruit in old age;
They shall be full of sap and very green.

Twice he uses the word “flourish” to describe this man’s life. As the man ages he is still fruitful, full of sap and very green.

The Apostle Paul provides some great insight on how this becomes a reality in a person’s life. In II Corinthian 4:16, he says: “Therefore, we do not lose heart, though our outer body is wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”

Paul is telling us that if all we live for is this life, over time we will lose heart and experience despair because our physical bodies are deteriorating. All physical beauty is fading and our bodies are breaking down. It is only a matter of time before the heart becomes despondent.

But the Apostle Paul tells the Christians in Corinth, “We do not lose heart.” Though the body may be decaying, each day we have the opportunity to inwardly grow, be renewed, and be reinvigorated. This is how a person’s life can flourish as the years go by.

Paul puts it another way, “It is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27) It is Christ working in our inner most being that enables us to bear fruit, even in old age, and to be full of sap and very green.


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