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Finishing well

Inspired by the Example of Our Free Will Baptist Heritage

by David Crowe


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2 Timothy 4:6 – 8

“For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”

At the end of his life, Paul said, “I finished well.” The reason Paul could finish well was because Jesus had already finished well. On the cross Jesus said, “It is finished!” He had completed what the Father sent him to do. Because of Jesus, you and I can finish well in Christ’s work.

What a tragedy to see Christian men and women live a lifetime for Christ and accomplish great things in life and ministry, only to find themselves bitter, critical, and cynical in their last years and days. We will be remembered most by how we finish.



“All I wait for is my Saviour’s command, and my soul will then leave this body.” These were the last words spoken by Elder Benjamin Randall on this earth. He died October 22, 1808, at age 59. In less than thirty years, he saw the fledgling denomination grow to number nearly one hundred churches and 5,000 members.

He had personally started 51 of these churches, the beginnings of the Free Will Baptists in the North. During his last three years (1805-1807), in poor health and feeble, he traveled over 2,000 miles a year preaching in over 200 public meetings each year. In his letter dated May 1808, four months before his death, Randall wrote,

“I am a poor, worn-out servant; and here I sit and see my flesh gone and my bones project, and rejoice that I have worn out in so blessed a cause. Though I know it would be blessed to depart, yet I thinkI would be willing to stay on these low grounds until I wore out life after life in such blessed employment. I think now, if I had only my lungs and voice, however weak my body, I would blow the gospel trumpet until I died in the blessed work. Pray as the Spirit directs, for your poor, unworthy Benjamin. I die, your servant for Christ’s sake, Benjamin Randall.”

He finished well!


John Colby was not strong, and the fatal disease of consumption began to develop in his body in March of 1817. He returned to his father’s home and improved enough to preach and travel south to a warmer climate. He got as far as Norfolk, Virginia, on October 31, and stayed in the home of Fauquier, deacon in a Baptist church. He continued to fail rapidly, but was twice carried to church and preached before he died November 23, 1817, not yet thirty years of age. His grave rests near the entrance of that church in Norfolk, and is marked by a plain marble slab. John Colby was described as “singular, gifted, faithful, persuasive, amiable, and emotional.” He impressed all who knew him and was a most beloved disciple of Christ.

He finished well!


David Marks lay on his deathbed at 40 years of age, his body worn and racked with pain. He had traveled,exposed himself to the elements of nature, and literally preached himself to death. From his deathbed he said to his mentor, Charles Finney, “Take me to the meeting-house and let me give one more talk before I die.” They propped him on the pulpit and he preached one last time in the chapel of Oberlin College.

He died one month later on December 1, 1845. Charles Finney preached his funeral and said, “David Marks is probably the greatest Free Will Baptist that has ever lived.” Having studied before him and those since his death, I think I would be inclined to agree.

He finished well!


Joseph Parker ministered in North Carolina for 64 years, starting nine churches in five counties. When the Calvinist movement swept through the state in the mid 1700’s, most Free Will Baptist churches were swept up in it. The few remaining churches that continued as Free Will Baptists were those started by Joseph

Parker and his cousin William. Those few churches grew, and Free Will Baptists have a strong presence in North Carolina and many other Southern States today. Joseph Parker had a long and successful ministry, and he was faithful to death.

He finished well!


May God give me the grace, strength, wisdom and courage to finish well!


David Crowe is the director of church growth for the Home Missions Department.


©2007 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists