William Wilberforce (1759-1833) was an English politician who fought for the abolition of slavery in the British empire. The defeats and setbacks he suffered along the way would have caused most people to quit. He faced countless political, financial, and social pressures. His life was at risk numerous times. He suffered poor health. His wife was depressive and sickly. He had a son who strayed from the faith and a daughter who died at the age of thirty-two from TB. The case against slavery which he represented was defeated eleven times, yet he persevered for 46 years until he saw slavery’s end—just 3 days before his death.
We live in an age where quitting seems the norm. Gone are the days when people as a whole stayed the course and loyalty and longevity were held in high esteem. Whether in marriage, ministry, employment, schooling, or some volunteer organization, when things get difficult or interest simply fades, “moving on” is acceptable and seldom questioned.
Why Is Finishing Important?
Your character is not only revealed but created by whether or not you finish.
When you quit something prematurely, you are establishing precedence in your life and you make it easier to quit something more important down the road. It may not matter now that you quit a board game you are losing or do not finish books you start (guilty!), but this mentality will come back to bite you later. Author Gordon MacDonald writes, “You will inadvertently reinforce a dangerous character trait: specifically that whenever you are faced with a challenge you don’t like, or that seems too difficult, or that asks from you too great a sacrifice, you will find it easier and easier to walk away from it.”
By not finishing, you establish a poor example and make it easier for others to do the same.
You may argue: “What I do is my business.” However, such an attitude is both unbiblical and downright unloving. You are your brother’s keeper. Your actions and mine have an effect on others. Dropping that class or quitting a job may not be a life and death matter with you, but it may provide your brother or sister (or son/daughter) that one last “necessary” excuse to bail on something more consequential.
The greatest blessings come at the end of the journey.
In 1 Kings 9 we read, “When Solomon had finished building the temple of the Lord and the royal palace, and had achieved all he had desired to do, the Lord appeared to him a second time” (vv. 1-2). God did not show up until after Solomon had completed all of the temple construction. The prize is never awarded until one has crossed the finish line. Hebrews states it well, “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” (10:36). Good things come to those who wait.
By finishing, you close the chapters in your life well.
It is a small world. You may cross paths with the very people you stormed off on in a fit of rage. This can make for very awkward moments. On top of that, you may need their help down the road. So don’t burn your bridges; you may have to cross them later. The Apostle Paul made a big loop on his first missionary journey, ending where he had started (Acts 14:26-28). He understood the importance of creating and maintaining healthy relationships.
So How Do You Finish Well?
Begin by making a commitment. Tell yourself that quitting is never an option. “Until one is committed, there is hesitance, the chance to draw back, and always ineffectiveness” (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe). Or as James puts it, “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways” (1:8).
Next, practice community. A resilient life is not possible in isolation. We need the strength and support of others. “Two are better than one. . . If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” (Ecc. 4:9-10).
Finally, revel in your salvation. The root of endurance is found in the doctrine of justification which states that God counts sinners to be righteous through their faith in Christ. This doctrine unfolds the glorious truth that Christ is both our pardon and perfection. Author and pastor John Piper writes, “If you receive this gift of justification—that you are accepted and approved by God—as your greatest treasure in life, you will have a peace with God that passes all understanding. You will be a secure person. You will not need the approval of others. You will not need the ego-supports of wealth or power or revenge. You will be free. Your life will overflow with love. You will lay down your life in the cause of Christ for the joy that is set before you.”
You will find the strength to go on.
One Final Thought
It is not how you start but how you finish that counts. Life is about quality finishes. It does not matter how well you did the first 30 years. You will be remembered by how you fared on the final lap.“I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me.” (Acts 20:24).