The Discipline of Finishing.
Several years ago while anticipating retirement from full time pastoral ministry, a video from www.values.com flashed across our television screen. It moved me deeply. Before you read any further, take a moment to review it. You can see this clip here.
Disciples understand the concept of finishing. That is not to presume that any of us actually possesses the stuff of being natural born finishers. Sure, by temperament some of us are stubborn achievers with a dog-eat-dog appetite for the finish line. Even with our immense stores of resolve, however, we've become a nation of quitters. Do some background on gym memberships sold as compared to actual usage, the state of resolution lists from five months ago, or the membership roles of any church up against the weekly attendance tally, and the drop-out rate in this culture becomes a little more apparent. Even for many disciples the pathway to the finish line of just about any human enterprise is cluttered with our good intentions and best laid plans. Just the same, disciples understand, or at the least, should understand the rubrics of finishing. It is a significant biblical theme.
My personal take on the above video clip is a little different than the intention of the people at www.values.com. With a Christian worldview the old, worn runner in the video crosses the finish line because God gave him sources of spiritual endurance and persistence to complete what was obviously a hard and rugged race. The discipline of finishing is certainly an undercurrent of New Testament teaching as modeled by Jesus and taught by him to those who would follow. Consider several motifs of finishing that are evident in the New Testament---
1. Jesus obviously valued the discipline of finishing as a distinctive of his mission.
This was evident in one of his mission statements. He said, "My food is to do the will
of him who sent me and to finish his work" (John 4:34, NIV). On another occasion he
said, "I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has
given me to finish---the very woks that I am doing---testify that the Father has sent
me" (John 5:36, NIV). Also, we must remember his final words from the cross, "It is
finished" (John 19:30, NIV). Clearly Jesus elevated finishing in his view of mission.
2. Jesus taught his followers important lessons about the discipline of finishing.
When he explained the cost of being a disciple he taught them, "Suppose one of you
wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you
have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to
finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build
and wasn’t able to finish.’ (Luke 14:28-30, NIV). Jesus viewed finishing as a mark of
3. Jesus modeled the discipline of finishing in teaching the multitudes.
Matthew's Gospel is organized around five discourses, or teaching events, where he
gave instruction to the multitudes who surrounded him. Each of these episodes is
clearly annotated with the phrase, "When Jesus had finished..." (see Matthew 7:28;
11:1; 13:53; 19:1; and 26:21, NIV). Luke's orderly account of Jesus' life also notes
several of these concluding interchanges. Those Gospel writers were obviously
impressed with his finishing remarks.
4. The Apostle Paul mentioned the discipline of finishing in his Epistles.
Paul reminded the Corinthians about finishing the collection he had requested for
the impoverished believers in Jerusalem. He wrote, "Now finish the work, so that your
eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to
your means" (2 Corinthians 8:11, NIV). In the same letter he wrote, "So I thought it
necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements
for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not
as one grudgingly given" (2 Corinthians 9:5, NIV). He scolded the Galatians for using
fleshly methods in their work. He wrote, "Are you so foolish? After beginning by
means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?" (Galatians
3:3, NIV). Later, he wrote to Timothy about his own ministry. He wrote, "I have
fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7,
NIV). Finishing was his view of keeping the faith.
5. James gave his readers a strong promise about the discipline of finishing.
Practical James, once a skeptic but later a servant of Christ, reminded his readers of
the importance of allowing perseverance to finish it's work in them. He wrote, "Let
perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking
anything" (James 1:4, NIV). Going the distance was seen as an element of their
maturity so that they would lack nothing in their discipleship.
The discipline of finishing touches our lives at many levels, especially in the religious landscape of our nation now. It will be the topic of discussion this week. Please join me for additional comments and thoughts.
The photo above and the video clip "finishline" are used with permission from www.values.com.