The first day of school.
First day on the job.
We love to celebrate the start. However, a strong start does not translate into a strong finish. The Bible is more into celebrating strong, faithful-to-the-end finishes.
“… the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:13, NLT)
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7, HCSB)
“…follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance.” (Hebrews 6:12, NLT)
The trouble is we often do not realize the ingredients for a weak or tragic finish are present in our lives. This is why we need to practice the discipline of self-reflection, using principles and insights from Scripture to discern how we are running the “race that lies before us” (Hebrews 12:1, HCSB).
Here are 4 questions to ask yourself to see if your current pace and direction are heading toward a faithful finish.
1) Does “it” help me run?
Notably, the author of Hebrews commands us to get rid of not only sin, but also “every weight” (other translations use ‘encumbrance’). In other words, anything that does not help us run needs to be removed. There is a reason why great athletes follow strict diets and schedules. Yet Christ-followers run for a greater cause and a better reward.
This means we have to put a lot more things on the table of evaluation besides what is sinful. We have to look at how we spend our time, what we watch on TV, what we eat and drink, what we do for entertainment … and a whole lot more. The good can often be the enemy of the best. So what things in your life might need to be removed—not because they are necessarily wrong or bad—but because they are not helping you run?
2) What is consistently grabbing or competing for my attention?
Focus is a key ingredient of a strong finish, yet we face more distractions than ever in the 21st century. When we think of focus, we must realize that we are finite beings capable of expending a finite amount of energy, time, and effort every day. So what stuff seeks to grab your attention or distract you away from the race of faith?
3) Am I growing to believe and trust more in God’s sovereignty and love?
The longer we run, the more we experience adversity and challenges. Only a resolute belief in God’s power and goodness over and through our circumstances will keep us in the race. We can’t succumb to fatalism or victimhood, and we definitely can’t quit. We can look to Jesus and realize God is in control and working out infinitely and eternally good purposes in a broken and fallen world.
Remember: a hard race does not mean the wrong race!
4) What particular joy is driving me right now?
We are all driven by joy. However, not all joys are the same. Some joys are temporary, some are enslaving, and some are deceptive. There is joy in physical pleasure and material gain. There is joy in comfort and joy in relief from pain. However, God designed us for joys of significance, of fruitfulness, and of His unending presence. Therefore, our highest joy is always found in Christ and the race He gives us to run!