We often get off to a bad start, but a good finish is what matters
Hello Readers, hope all’s well. It’s Monday, so it’s time for another one of my Medium posts. This one was written in response to a Scripture writing prompt from the Medium publication, Koinonia. This month’s prompt was Hebrews 12:1-2. Enjoy, and have a good week!
It’s not about how you start; it’s about how you finish. In fact, it’s all about how you finish. When our lives are over, our actions and accomplishments will be our legacy. What we did or didn’t do will speak to who we were in life.
The good news there is that the way we finish can make up for any bad starts we may have had. A good finish negates a bad start. The Bible has many stories that illustrate this point. This came to mind when I read this month’s Scripture prompt for the Koinonia publication, which is Hebrews 12:1–2.
Here’s the verse:
Do you see what this means — all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running — and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed — that exhilarating finish in and with God — he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.(Hebrews 12:1–2, MSG)
A few things pop out when reading this. The message “never quit,” the idea of “parasitic sins” being extra spiritual fat that slow us down, and that the race has already been marked out for us. Jesus Christ is Who we’re following; He’s already run the course we are now called to.
Each of those ideas could inspire a story of their own. This month’s Scripture prompt is a great source of writing topics. But I’ll stick to “that exhilarating finish in and with God.”
Bad starts and great finishes in the Bible
The Bible, especially the Old Testament, shows time and time again that it’s not about how you start, but how you finish.
Let’s think about the story from Exodus to Numbers to Joshua (skipping Leviticus and Deuteronomy).
Things start out looking bleak for the Israelites in Exodus. Escaping Pharaoh wasn’t the end of their problems — far from it. For example, in Exodus 32, Moses and the Levites had to kill 3,000 of their own people when they lost their faith and worshiped the golden calf (Baal).
Things only got worse from there. How many calamities befell the Israelites during the whole saga of Numbers? How many plagues? How many times did they lose faith and cry out about being led into the desert to die? They challenged Moses (and God) over their hardships, earning plagues in return. Many Israelites died in the desert during Numbers; it’s a bleak book. But soon would come “that exhilarating finish in and with God.”
After the recap that is Deuteronomy and Moses’s final words, we move on to the book of Joshua. Here we see the LORD bring His people into the land He promised to their ancestors. The Israelites come out of the desert and begin to inhabit their promised land, a “land of milk and honey.” Joshua was an inspired leader who governed well, and the Israelites enjoyed victory.
After a bad start and a bleak middle where it seemed like they wouldn’t make it, the Israelites enjoyed a good finish that made all their suffering worth it. They got here by sticking with God and following Him, like Hebrews 12:1–2 exhorts us to do.
We see this cycle of bad to good repeat in the rest of the Bible too, of course. After Joshua comes Judges, where things again devolve into a disastrous mess for the Israelites. And the cycle continues.
And, of course, there’s the ultimate example: Jesus Christ. God saw that mankind was too sinful and imperfect to follow the law. No one could do it. So God offered mankind a new deal through His only son, Jesus Christ. He took a bad start and turned it into a great finish.
God always creates good out of bad, for His glory. When we follow His leadership, He will bring every bad start to a glorious finish. So, as this month’s verse says, like Jesus, we too must never lose sight of where we’re headed. If we keep following God (the way that He marked for us), then He will bring us to the finish line for an amazing ending.
When we cross that finish line, it won’t matter how cringe-worthy our start was. In fact, we will never cross the finish line without that cringe-worthy start.
Better to start badly than never start
It’s much better to start badly then to never start, of course! If we don’t start, then we can never finish.
If the Israelites had never started their journey out of Egypt, they never would have arrived at their promised land.
If you’re reading this on Medium, then chances are good you’re also a writer here. At some point, you decided to start writing here. Wherever you are now with your writing, or wherever you’re going with it, you would never get there if you hadn’t started. It doesn’t matter if you started badly. It matters if you started.
Let’s bring it back to the race of Hebrews 12. That race is following Jesus, living as a Christian. That’s the race we choose to run. It takes endurance, fortitude, and tenacity to stay in the race because it comes with hardships, as verse 2 notes. For many of us, it’s a new, unfamiliar lifestyle. We have to change our ways and our thinking. So, this means that our Christian race doesn’t always start off on the right foot. We stumble, slip up, fall back on our old un-Christian ways, give in to our wrath, and so on. To God, ourselves, and others, our start is cringe-worthy and awkward.
But we’re running towards the promise of that exhilarating finish with God. As long as we get there, whenever we get there, that’s what matters. That’s all that matters. If we follow Jesus to reach the glorious finish line God has planned for us, none of the missteps on the way there will matter.
So, let me state the obvious again: We can’t reach that finish line if we never start! Don’t worry about how to be a “good” Christian, or about getting everything right when you start out. Who tries out something new and is an expert at it right away?
Someone who starts badly is already much closer to the finish line than someone who never starts. So, don’t worry about getting things perfect — get in the race!
It’s never too late to turn in the right direction
If we’re running this race, following Jesus as we live Christian lives, then we’re going in the right direction. We’re on our way to the finish line, and we’ll get there when it’s time. Every step we take gets us one step closer to the end.
Even though Hebrews 12:1–2 uses the metaphor of a race, our direction is more important than our speed. What matters is that we finish our race. Aside from needing endurance, that also means we must be going towards the goal. We must be going the right way.
So, if we’re not going the right way, it’s never too late to turn around and fix that. It’s never too late to find Jesus. It’s never too late to follow Christ and get into this race. It’s never too late to start going the right way.
It doesn’t matter how long we ran in the wrong direction. And it doesn’t matter if we make mistakes starting out in our new, unfamiliar direction. If we get to our exhilarating finish in and with God then we got to where we were supposed to.
What matters is finishing the race, and we can’t finish if we never start. So, at some point we need to start. We won’t start perfectly, but that won’t matter when we reach that exhilarating finish. No matter how long we’ve run in the wrong direction, let’s turn it around and get in the race!
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