Monday, August 6, 2012

To Finish Well . . . Don’t Finish Everything

I’ve written several times about finishing well, including just before the Summer Olympics opened. Recently I remembered someone’s advice from years ago: To finish well, don’t try to finish everything you start.

Wait: Isn’t it bad to have unfinished business, to not follow through on commitments? That’s not what he meant. His point was that to succeed over a long period of time – to finish well – we need to focus on what we do best and not become consumed by things that take us off course.

The Summer Olympic Games provide examples. At 6-foot-4, Michael Phelps could have been a good volleyball player, or might have enjoyed baseball or other sports. But he concentrated on his special abilities as a swimmer. Four Olympics and 12 years later, he has won a total of 22 medals – 18 of them gold – making him the most decorated Olympian in history.

As a boy, Jamaica’s Usain Bolt’s favorite sport was soccer. A teacher recognized his giftedness as a runner, however, and encouraged that skill. Today Bolt is one of only three men to have won the Olympic 100-meter dash twice, making him “the world’s faster runner.”

My favorite devotional writer, Oswald Chambers, said, “Good is the enemy of the best.” In other words, we all are presented with good opportunities – but they can get in the way of the best things, those we are uniquely qualified to do.

This is an excellent principle for evaluating opportunities we all receive to engage in worthwhile activities, from taking a new job to serving on a committee to dedicating many hours to a favorite hobby. Just because something is good, that doesn’t mean it’s the best use of our time and energy. And if we start something and later determine our choice was wrong, the best thing for everyone involved might be to set it aside.

Proverbs 4:27 offers this admonition: Don't get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.” In a sense, good things can actually become evil if they divert us from doing the best things, those pursuits God has prepared that we are equipped to do better than someone else.

When we say no to good things to focus on the best things, that doesn’t mean the other things won’t get done. It just means other people might have to do them – if they’re worth doing at all. And for them, those might be the best things to do.  

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