Finishing Well

Finishing Well

The Scripture that has helped me most as I think about finishing well is in the New Testament, written by the author of Hebrews: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Heb. 12:1–3).

This is what those few sentences have profoundly taught me about finishing well:

1. Learn from other runners. The writer of Hebrews mentions a “great cloud of witnesses.” It’s so important to learn from others. Are there people who positively influence you on a regular basis? If not, you are missing out on great opportunities to gain wisdom. The group of four men that I have met with every Tuesday morning for the last eighteen years has given me such great wisdom and knowledge. These men help me with my judgment. I’m a better husband, father, and leader because of those Tuesday mornings. Find your group of men or women who are your replenishing relationships. Do you have mentors? Mentors are effective in business, but I find that mentors for marriage, parenting, and spiritual focus can make you a better person. Some of my mentors are younger than me, and others I “met” after they died, by reading the wisdom in their books.

2. Run light. The writer of Hebrews also talks about throwing off everything that hinders us and the things that so easily entangle us. As I mentioned before, Peter Drucker says, “First things first, last things not at all.” As you run toward the finish line, is there anything you can do to run lighter and to remove obstacles that would keep you from finishing well? Stuff happens. Sometimes it’s issues with our families, health, or circumstances over which we have no control. That’s why we need to run light, saving the energy to have the right attitude about draining things that come our way, that sway us from our callings. I have a psychologist friend who always says, “Live your life at 80 percent.” Doing so creates some margin in your life when tough times come your way.

3. Run with perseverance. Perseverance and grit help us overcome so many of our obstacles. Perseverance, endurance, grit, and courage are characteristics of people who have successful marriages, businesses, and relationships. I don’t know anyone finishing well who doesn’t possess these traits. Psychologist Angela Duckworth, in both her book and her Ted Talk about grit,[1] says her studies on high achievers in business and education reveals that success has almost nothing to do with talent but much more to do with a never-give-up attitude. She calls that attitude grit. Nobody said life would be easy, but the healthiest way to walk the path marked out for us is to combine our perseverance and passion with pure grit.

4. Keep your eyes on the prize. The prize for me goes back to the word faithful. That’s what I want more than anything else—to remain faithful to God, my wife, my family, and my calling. The key to my being faithful is focusing on the foundation of my faith, which is trusting in Jesus. This is a simple but not easy decision. When I keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, things fall into place. I can handle the difficult circumstances life brings my way. But when I take my eyes off the prize, my focus becomes dim, and I can easily lose my way. I once asked a mentor who was nearing the end of his exemplary life, “What are you doing to finish well?” He answered, “It doesn’t start with my outside life; finishing well is an inside job.” He quoted a great thinker, Dallas Willard: “If your soul is healthy, no external circumstance can destroy your life. If your soul is not healthy, no external circumstance can redeem your life.”

[1] Angela Duckworth, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (New York: Scribner, 2016).

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Jim Burns

Jim Burns is the president of HomeWord. He speaks to thousands of people around the world each year. He has close to 2 million resources in print in 20 languages. He primarily writes and speaks on the values of HomeWord, which are: Strong Marriages, Confident Parents, Empowered Kids, and Healthy Leaders. Some of his most popular books are: Confident Parenting, The Purity Code, Creating an Intimate Marriage, Closer, and Doing Life with Your Adult Children. Jim and his wife, Cathy, live in Southern California and have three grown daughters, Christy, Rebecca, and Heidi; three sons-in-law, Steve and Matt, and Andy; and three grandchildren, James, Charlotte and Huxley.

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