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Finishing Well

May 30th, 2011

“That I may finish my race with joy.” Acts 20:24 NKJV

“Anything worth doing is worth doing well.”

My thoughts today are about “finishing well.”

In life, beginnings are important, just as thoroughness and the diligence to follow through provides solid foundations for all future achievement. But most essential is the task of finishing well. A lot of people start things they have neither the persistence to continue nor dedication to complete. As a boy, I recall my Dad saying, “Allen, anything worth doing is worth doing well; don’t start something you don’t intend to finish.” Life one day comes to an end for one and all. At that point, what matters is your accomplishments, not your attempts or intentions.

Dad’s words were usually a reminder when I grew weary in a job not being done as well as I could. My Dad believed only a person’s best effort is worthy in God’s eyes, and His appraisal is what ultimately matters. You have fewer regrets when you have done your best. “For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these – ‘It might have been.’” John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892).

I am no longer a young man, yet there is still more for me as God gives grace and opportunity, but not as much as lays behind me. When I was a younger pastor, my thoughts were of what I hoped to do and though there is yet opportunity for accomplishment, my reflection is more on what I hope was done and whether or not it was done well. In a few months, I will relinquish to another the ministry position and responsibilities that I have carried for nearly 48 years. I have some mixed emotions about that. It is not a regret of doing so; that was my choice and God’s direction. My heart is at rest that this is “the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons.”

My concern is not whether I have done enough; the adequacy of my efforts I leave for others to evaluate. My hope is this: that what I have done by the grace of God has been done as well as I was capable of doing; that judgment I leave to God alone. The Apostle Paul had a practical approach to this. “Have I been faithful? It matters very little what anyone else thinks . . it is the Lord Himself who will examine and decide . . when the Lord comes . . then God will give to everyone whatever praise is due.” 1 Corinthians 4:1-6 NLT. Did you notice? God examines with purpose and expectation to praise you!

A runner intent on finishing well does not slow his step nor slack his effort with the finish line in sight; runners are coached to “run through the tape.” You and I are running a far more consequential race and you must cross the finish line. See Hebrews 11:1-4 NIV. Paul’s later years were spent in prison, so he used his confinement to write much of the New Testament. “My life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus – the work of telling others the Good News about God’s wonderful kindness and love.” Acts 20:24. Boundaries do not determine your potential. Finishing well means to live in such a way that the touch of your life extends well beyond the reach of your lifetime. The good news is this: as long as there is life, it is never too late to do better and finish well.

Paul finished well, as must you. “I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness . . I eagerly expect and hope I will . . have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” 2 Timothy 4:7-8/Philippians 1:20-21 NIV. My hope and heart’s intent is that I finish well with God’s approval. The applause of just one, the Just One, is enough for me, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Matthew 25:21 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is that you live a life pleasing to God and satisfying to your soul.

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