Finishing strong is often advocated as a solid approach to any endeavor. You want to do it right and end in a way that serves as a solid exclamation point to whatever “statement” you just made, be it a physical task, an academic standard, a work related goal or even a benchmark where a particular relationship is concerned.
Throughout history there are many stories of athletic events lost because a player or team slowed before the line was crossed. It might have been loss of hope of winning, loss of focus, loss of energy, loss of confidence, or loss of commitment to the goal.
Emperor Nero of the Roman Empire, very obese and weak, wanted to run in an Olympic race. So he rode part way in his carriage, got out and ran a couple of minutes and then got back into the carriage to cross the finish line. As was his nature, he wanted to be crowned Olympic Champion. Out of fear his followers cheered and called him champion. Directed at Nero, Apostle Paul courageously wrote publicly that our work in life is to “finish the race.”
In some ways, the way you finish in some ways is even more important than the way you started.
It’s not that any part of the journey is incidental. Bad beginnings, unnecessary tangents and epic fails can make the race a lot harder than it needs to be.
But you can learn, you can heal and you can recover in a way where the final result is achieved and the victory is won.
From that perspective, the way you finish is what determines the final score and not the mistakes you made during the game.
But here’s one thing to keep in mind:
Apart from whatever errors you could possibly make, the one thing you want to be aware of is the way in which success can make you falter.
It’s Not a Guarantee
You can get lazy and even a little over confident. At that point, the threat of failure is just as present, but it’s concealed beneath what appears to be a guaranteed outcome.
And that can be a lethal attitude.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:24:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. (1 Cor 9:24)
Hebrews 12:1 says:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, (Heb 12:1 [see also Ecc 9:10])
If you’re familiar with the term, “Hardcharger,” that’s the kind of person these verses are pointing to and saying, “Be like that!”
Thing is, no matter how focused you may be or how certain you are that you’re on the right track, you always want to give your King the opportunity to weigh in and direct you according to the Perspective that encompasses so much more than what you can see or control (Prov 27:1).
This is where your spiritual disciplines become more than just noble chores (read “Why Bother?“).
Keeping Your Desk Clear
A great illustration of this is the way in which General George Washington and the Continental Congress were constantly encouraging those they served to be in a state of perpetual repentance and thanksgiving.
Take a look at the table below. You can click on the “page one | page two” links in the “Journals of the Continental Congress (1774 – 1875)” column to see the image of the text as it’s preserved in the Library of Congress and you can click on the “text” link to view a more “readable” version of the text.”
|Date / Proclamation||Journals of the Continental Congress (1774 – 1875)||text|
|July 20, 1775||page one | page two||text|
|March 16, 1776||page one | page two||text|
|December 11, 1776||page one||text|
|November 1, 1777||page one | page two||text|
|March 6, 1778||page one | page two||text|
|November 16, 1778||page one||text|
|March 20, 1779||page one | page two||text|
|October 14, 1779||page one | page two||text|
|March 11, 1780||page one | page two||text|
|October 18, 1780||page one | page two||text|
|March 20, 1781||page one | page two||text|
|October 26, 1781 (British Surrender)||page one | page two||text|
|March 19, 1782||page one | page two||text|
|October 11, 1782||page one||text|
|October 18, 1783||page one | page two||text|
|August 3, 1784||page one | page two||text|
Fasting is generally viewed as something that’s reserved for moments of desperation when you deploy an intensely focused effort to position your appeal before God .
When you look at the way it’s referenced in Scripture, that’s obviously a part of it (Dt 9:18; 1 Kings 21:27; Ezra 8:23; Neh 1:4; Dan 9:3-5).
But there’s other times where you see people fasting, not so much because they’re desperate, as much as they’re simply resolved (Lk 2:37; Acts 13:3)
The fact that the Continental Army was able to enjoy any kind of success was completely unexpected. These were farmers and untrained civilians going up against one of the most powerful and well equipped armies in the world. When National Days of Fasting were prescribed, it wasn’t only to ask for God’s blessing and protection, but it was also to repent.
Here’s a part of the text from March 20, 1781:
The United States in Congress assembled, therefore do earnestly recommend, that Thursday the third of May next, may be observed as a day of humiliation, fasting and prayer, that we may, with united hearts, confess and bewail our manifold sins and transgressions, and by sincere repentance and amendment of life, appease his righteous displeasure, and through the merits of our blessed Savior, obtain pardon and forgiveness:
The idea isn’t so much about rehearsing how utterly vile you as a sinner appear in the sight of a morally Perfect God as much as it’s clearing your mental desk of any distraction so you can hear the Voice and benefit from the Power of your King.
You can’t sin without thinking primarily of yourself. Fasting represents a great way to fix your eyes exclusively on the Goodness and the Absolute Authority of God.
The United States made a point of doing that frequently throughout the Revolution and into the nineteenth century in order to ensure a clear mind, a humble heart and…
…a strong finish.
The Best Example
The point is this: You want to finish what you start and you want to finish well. And while it’s tempting to think that the only things you need to be concerned about are the ways in which you might stumble as you run, one of the biggest challenges is to make sure you’re keeping up your “hardcharger” pace all the way up to and past the finish line.
That’s how you get things done, that’s how you win.
The best and greatest example is Christ Himself. It would’ve been so easy to walk away or to seek out some kind of shortcut, but He instead chose to endure every excrutiating moment in order to ensure that the Power of sin was forever defeated and death was no longer something to fear.
It wasn’t until the debt was completely paid and a new kind of transaction was now possible that He said, “It is finished.” (Jn 19:30)
In one sense, the cross is a dark and sobering picture that doesn’t seem appropriate when you’re talking about remaining motivated and focused.
But it’s actually a perfect example of how you want to keep things tight and consider yourself to be finished only when the job is completely done.
Only then have you crossed the finish line!