Monday, February 9, 2009

Not How You Start, But How You Finish

This week NASCAR officially gets its season underway. For years the sport’s colorful spectacle, powerful race cars and skilled drivers have fascinated me. But I have been intrigued even more by principles for successful racing – many of which also apply to successful living.

One of them immediately comes to mind: “It’s not how you start, but how you finish.” This principle holds true for many forms of competition, but none so dramatically as motor racing.

The coveted “pole position” entitles one driver to start the race in first place, but has virtually nothing to do with the race’s outcome. You can race well in the early going, even dominate much of the contest, but if you have a wreck, flat tire, blown engine, transmission failure, or get passed by a faster vehicle – even on the final lap – you still lose.

It’s similar in marriage, parenting, education, work, relationships, hobbies, even our spiritual journey. We can start with great enthusiasm and energy, but the test is how we sustain our commitment in the face of obstacles, struggles, everyday tedium. Do we lose heart during tough times and fall back?

Finishing well is a recurring – even dominant – theme in the Bible. In Philippians 3:14 the apostle Paul states, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” In Paul’s final letter to his disciple, Timothy, he writes, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). And Jesus’ last words on the cross were, “It is finished” (John 19:30).

More than 60 years into my time on earth, I’m closer to the end than to the start. So it’s a worthwhile question to consider: Am I finishing well?

How about you?

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