How To Finish Well

Bible Book: Psalms  119 : 33-40
Subject: Obedience; Faithfulness; Christian Living
Series: The Ministry of the Word Series

[2 Timothy 4:6-8]

A sense of dependence and a consciousness of extreme need pervade this section. These eight verses [He, the fifth letter in the Hebrew Alphabet] are a prayer or a plea for instruction in God’s Word so that we might live for God until the end of our life on earth (CIT). [The thought of renewal is also (119:25) found in this stanza (vv. 37, 40). As the psalmist is restored to life by the power of God, he must grow in that life that he might finish his walk of faith well.]

Enoch (Gen. 5:24), Abraham (Gen. 25:8), Joseph (Gen. 50:20, 24), Caleb, Joshua (Joshua 24), Elijah (2 Kgs 2:8-11), Paul (2 Tim. 4:6-8) and Jesus (John 17:4) all finished well, to the glory of God. Not every believer achieves that heroic goal. A good beginning ought to lead to a good ending, but that is not always the case. Lot, Samson, King Saul, King Uzziah (2 Chron. 26:16-21), Ahithophel, and Demas all made good beginnings, but their lives ended in tragedy. The psalmist wanted stay the course, to finish well (v. 33), but ending well is the result of continuing well. What are the essentials for a consis­tent life that ends well?[Wiersbe, Warren. The Bible Exposition Commentary. Job-Song of Solomon. David Cook. 2004. Colorado Springs, CO. p. 315]. There are four essentials in our passage:


It’s not easy or natural to live for God, much less to live for God all the days of our life so that we finish the course God has laid out for each of us. The writer therefore prays, asking in verse 33 that God teach him His Word. “Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, And I shall observe it to the end.”

We must pray for spiritual enlightenment so that we may learn the Word of God and the way of God. Teach me Thy statutes, not the mere words, but the way of applying them to myself. Once God has pointed out His way to us we must observe or adhere to it day after day. This continued observance is the way we become Jesus’ disciples and grow in discipleship.

According to this verse, our perseverance rests not on any force or compulsion, but on the teaching of the Lord and our adherence to God’s teaching. After we begin our walk of faith [or our life of discipleship] we need to journey to the end. The way to persevere to the end is to apply the Lord's teaching to our life continually. If we don’t persevere in the Word of God, the faith and strength of God will not be ours to walk in the way of God as we should much less to walk in it all the way to the end. We must depend upon the continual teaching of the Lord because through it He keeps and guides His saints. Let us therefore earnestly drink in divine instruction, that so we may hold fast our integrity, and follow on in the straight and narrow way until life’s final hour.

The "end" of which David speaks is the end of life [or the fullness of obedience]. He trusted in grace to make him faithful to the utmost, never drawing a line and saying to obedience, The end of our need to adhere to the Word of God will come only when we cease to breathe. Allowing the Word to take hold and direct our life throughout our whole life is the way to become all that Christ wants to be in the end. Not only that, only by adhering to the Word will we find the grace, the strength, and direction to journey with God all the way to the end. “As Christ loves us to the end, so must we serve Him to the end. The end of divine teaching is that we may persevere to the end.” [Spurgeon, Charles. The Treasury of David. Vol. 3. McLean, VA: MacDonald Publishing. p.208]

Beyond dramatic encounters with God is the life of discipleship. Daily waiting before the Word is not merely to rise up on wings as eagles or to run without weariness. The real goal is to walk and not faint (Isa. 40:31). This walking is the road to maturity. It doesn’t matter how high you jump; what matters is how well you walk when you come down. Although spiritual highs (if it is really God) will pump you up we are sustained by our walk in the word. After our hearts are cleansed and refreshed by the Spirit of God, we need God to teach us. [Williams, Donald. The Preacher's Commentary Series, Vol. 14: Psalms 73-150. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1989, S. 350]

The psalmist continues praying in verse 34 for understanding and a heart motivated adherence to God’s Word. “Give me understanding, that I may observe Your law and keep it with all my heart.”

It is one thing to be taught and another to understand the teaching. A good coach begins to teach his team with basic plays and drills. So it is with God. He shows us the basics, and we must start there. As the master coach it is His responsibility to not only teach the content but also to grant its understanding. As we ask to be taught His Word and then obey what He shows us, our understanding will grow throughout our lifetime.

The psalmist’s obedience is no mere legalism. He prays that God will enable him to observed the Word with his whole heart.

While the psalmist’s desire is to give himself wholly to God, at the same time, he to know his own weaknesses. Thus he doesn’t trust his commitments; he trusts the God to whom he is committed.

Notice again that the psalmist prays to observed the Word with his whole heart. It is not enough to read the Bible, get answers to questions or be able to discuss theology. We must come to understand the character of God and the workings of His providence (27:11; 86:11; 103:7). Just as children come to under­stand the character of their parents and what pleases them, so we must get to know God better and discern His desires. We have a complete revelation of the Lord and His will in the Scriptures, but we need inner illumination to discover what it means to our own lives. [Wiersbe, 315] God, by His Spirit, gives a right understanding. And it is the same the Spirit who will motivate us to keep it with all our heart.

The United States is trying to fix its EDUCATIONAL SYS­TEM. A Presidential education summit, school reform, and increased graduation requirements are part of the strategy against illiteracy. All of this results from a growing concern that our students don't know what they should know.

Among Christians, there is a similar problem: bibli­cal illiteracy. In a book called What Every Christian Should Know, authors Jo Lewis and Gordon Palmer cited a Gallup poll revealing that one-fourth of regular churchgoing young people could not name any of the Ten Commandments. But the problem is not limited to young people. We all need to increase our knowledge of God's Word.

Just reading the Bible isn't enough, however. When the psalmist prayed, "Teach me, 0 Lord, the way of Your statutes," he was asking for more than mere head knowledge. We must ask God to help us understand His Word. Then, like the psalmist, we will be motivated to keep His law. Knowledge of God's statutes without obedience is not enough.

So what is our assignment? Consistently read and meditate on the Bible, asking God to show us anew His ways so that we may observe them with our whole heart.

If we are going to be faithful to the end we not only must Trust God’s Word, we must also....


Next in verse 35 he prays to live according to the Word of God which causes him delight. “Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it.”

Our prayer "Teach me” and “Give me understanding,” must lead to obedience. Notice the paradox. He must ask God to enable him to do what he delights in doing. However much we may want to please God, God must give us the strength to do it. [Make me walk is in the causative.] God puts His Spirit within us, causing us to walk in His Word and way. Paul says that God has made us obedient from the heart (Rom. 6:17). Only He can give us both the motivation and the energy to follow Him.

The reason he asks for God’s enabling is [because] “For I delight in it [the path of Your commandments].” His new man loves obeying God, but his old man just won’t let him (Rom. 7:22- 8:1). He asks God for spiritual empowering beyond what he possesses even in his changed nature. [Delight is in the preterit, “have delighted.” It expresses a habitual high degree of pleasure (Ps. 18:19; 112:1).]

In their book Best, Worst & Most Unusual, the authors give us this CATEGORY AND WINNER: Worst Editing of a Film: The movie theater manager in Seoul, South Korea, who decided the running time of “The Sound of Music” was too long. So he “shortened” it by cutting out all the songs!

Sadly, many Christians are like that movie manager. They feel there's not enough time in the day to accomplish all that's necessary, so they cut out a regular reading of the Bible. In today's hectic world, it's sometimes difficult to know what the highest priorities are in our schedules. Make no mistake; a few moments reading the Bible and communing with God are absolutely essential.

An Arab proverb says: "A book is like a garden carried in the pocket.” When you regularly read God's Word, it begins to sink deeply into your mind and character. Taking root there, it blossoms with God's wisdom and a faith in His promises.

Ask God to give you a desire to read the Bible, and the discipline to accomplish it. For to enjoy your walk with God, you must keep in step with His Word.

This heart that delights in God’s Word need to be reinforced and strengthen especially against covetousness as verse 36 indicates. “Incline my heart to Your testimonies and not to dishonest gain.”

Here again an absolute dependence on divine empowering is strongly indicated. God must continue to deal with him and empower him to overcome the desires of the fallen nature. The threat of hardening our heart is always a real possibility. Despite the change toward God that has occurred in his heart, his new heart is in need our God’s continuing work and empowering.

So he prays that the Lord would turn him to His Word and away from covetousness [the Tenth Commandment]. Greed is the desire for things rather than for God. It is the worship of the creation rather than the Creator (Rom. 1:25). Paul calls it idolatry (Eph. 5:5).

People today often covet financial gain. Money represents power, influence, and success. For many people, money is a god. They think about little else. True, money can buy certain comforts and offer some security. But far more valuable than wealth is obedience to God because it is a heavenly treasurer rather than an earthly one (Luke 12:33) We should do what God wants, regardless of the financial implications.

Those that would have the love of God rooted in them, must get the love of the world rooted out; for the friendship of the world is enmity with God. Make the psalmist's prayer your own. Ask God to turn your heart toward His statutes and not toward making money; it's in your long run best interest if you are living to finish well.

If we are going to be faithful to the end we must Trust God’s Word, follow God’s Ways, and we must also...


To underscore his request, the psalmist prays in verse 37 that he would turn his eyes from worthless things. “Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity, and revive me in Your ways.”

He also prayed that the Lord would turn him away from vanity. Vanity is better translated “worthless things”Our hearts and minds ("eyes") [what John calls the “lust of the eyes” (1 John 2:16)] must be focused on the truth of God and not material wealth and the van­ities of the world (vv. 51, 157). Outlook determines outcome. Beholding vanity deadens us and slackens our pace. A traveler must not stand gazing upon every object that presents itself to his view. The promises of God's Word can preserve the true believer and guide him to finish well. [When Satan has drawn a child of God into worldly pursuits, he will reproach him with the falls into which he led him. Victory must come from the cross of Christ.]

There are many things in this world that have an allurement to them, and yet if we look at them, follow after them and even attain them, they prove to be vain and worthless. The material possessions that seem so attractive will never bring satisfaction or happiness. The relationships that seem so alluring leave you with nothing by disappointment and regret.

Abraham looked for the heavenly city and ended well; Lot looked at Sodom and ended badly (Gen. 13; Heb. 11:8-16). What the heart loves and desires, the eyes will see (101:2-6; Num. 15:37-41; Jer. 22:17). To have one eye on the world and the other on the Word is to be double-minded, and God does not bless double-minded people (James 1:5-8).

The Robertson family on Duck Dynasty love to HUNT FROGS along the banks of the river near the patriarch Phil’s home. You may be unaware of frog’s unique visual powers that enabled them to elude hunters so easily. The frog's optical field is like a blackboard wiped clean, and that the only images it receives are objects that directly con­cern him. These little amphibians are never distracted by unimportant things, but are aware only of essentials and whatever may be dangerous

In the Christian life we frequently become preoccupied with the vain things of the world. We allow our lives to become so cluttered with materialis­tic and insignificant concerns that we lose perspective of the things that endure. The psalmist asked God for help in fixing his attention on His Word so that he might be revived. He realized that he must be renewed again and again if he was going to live a life of continuing discipleship. He grants us His way and renews us to walk in it. We cannot live on yesterday’s manna. We cannot draw on the currency of past spiritual experiences in order to substitute for a vital walk today.

The words of the Lord should not depart from our eyes, but must be kept in our heart always (Proverb 4:21). Then our field of vision will wiped clean of unnecessary things, and we will see clearly what God wants us to do.

Have you become distracted by sin so that you can no longer discern what is really important? Turn away your eyes from looking at worthless things and center your gaze on Christ and His will for your life. For the more attracted we are to Christ, the less we'll be distracted by the world.

Next, in verse 38 the psalmist asks to be established in God’s Word because he is God’s reverent servant. “Establish Your word to Your servant, as that which produces reverence for You.”

He asks God to cause the fulfillment or establishment or His word. To call oneself God’s servant means that God is your King. God’s servant does not want God’s word to be crowded out of his life, but to produce reverential fear of God’s being. [A proper fear of God is the experience of awe before His holy majesty.] Such reverence is a sign that you want to be God’s servant instead of wanting God to be yours. The true servant wants God’s word to get a hold on him because it speaks of eternal issues. There is a heaven to gain and a hell to shun.

Establish Thy word, O Lord, not only to me, but to all the godly ones under the sun. Establish Thy word that men may be led to fear Thee. We cannot look for the fulfilment of promises given to us unless we live under the influence of the fear of the Lord [Spurgeon, 211].

If we are going to be faithful to the end we must Trust God’s Word, follow God’s Ways, Submit to God’s Correction and we must also...


Out of his desires to live as a disciple, he also prays to be delivered from his enemies in verse 39.“Turn away my reproach which I dread, for Your ordinances are good.”

Reproach means scorn or contempt. This is the sting of those who scorned him for living a life directed by God’s ordinances. This reproach is from those who do not follow God’s law (v. 21).

He though would continue to live by them to the end of his days. For “Your ordinances are good” or are prompted and controlled by infinite goodness. They are designed for our good and to make us good like our God. So the psalmist would continue to claim God’s promises and trust God to deal with his enemies.

[Too many people keep their Bible on the shelf instead of in their hearts. What we learn with our mind and apprehend with our heart must motivate the will to do what God commands. But our obedience cannot be that of a slave obeying a master in order to avoid discipline. It must be the obedi­ence of a grateful child who delights to please his or her parents. "Doing the will of God from the heart" (Eph. 6:6). This was the way Jesus obeyed His Father: "I delight to do Your will, 0 my God, and Your law is within my heart" (Ps. 40:8). "I always do those things that please Him" (John 8:29). If we want to know God's truth, we must be willing to obey God's will (John 7:17).]

This stanza concludes in verse 40 by returning to the thought of renewal. “Behold, I long for Your precepts; Revive me through Your righteousness.”

He longs for God’s “precepts.” To long for God’s precepts is long for their wisdom and for the grace to obey them. This deep longing for God’s Word is a mark of a maturing believer. When we enjoy the sweetness of God's precepts, it will make us long for more acquaintance with them and with Him. And where God’s will is sought and received, He will do His work.

“Revive me [‘keep me alive’] in Your righteousness.” The intention of this petition is either “Since You are righteous, be true to Yourself and revive me” or “Revive me through the instrument of Your righteousness.” Both are true. God is righteous, and as we turn to Him He will make us alive. At the same time, His righteousness convicts us of sin, brings us to repentance, and (now in Christ) restores us into a vital fellowship with Himself. [Williams, S. 351.] God’s word does not kill us, instead it makes us alive.


The writer of Psalm 119 recognized the importance of his finishing his life in the service of God. We cannot finish well without being filled with His Spirit and abiding in His Word. To recharge your spiritual battery, plug into the Source. God teaches us as He gives us His word and leads us in His way, and also as He continually ministers to our hearts and brings us back to our first love of Him.

As we get to know God better we will discern His desires. We have a complete revelation of the Lord and His will in the Scriptures, but we need inner illumination to discover what it means to our own lives. As we keep Christ as the center of our lives by adhering to the Word we will finish well in the end.