Church-Community Connection: It’s Never Too Late to Start Winning in the Race for Life | Characteristics
Recently, I turned 72. My desire at this point in my life is to end up strong.
What does it mean to end strong? Some Internet humor says, “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day.” Teach a man to fish, and he’ll sit in a boat all day drinking beer. Don’t get me wrong here. Beer is not the problem. Sitting in a boat all day, every day, to the exclusion of everything or everyone. After all, nothing is foolproof for a sufficiently gifted fool. Insane and all-consuming pursuits keep us from finishing strong.
Did you know that the Bible mentions over 1,000 leaders? Dr. Robert Clinton, whose life is devoted to the art of leadership, has studied nearly all of these leaders. Among that group, he narrowed the field down to 100 prominent leaders. But first he wanted to know how many had finished strong in their personal, family and religious life.
After careful study, Dr. Clinton found that the Bible only gave enough information about 49 of the 100 leaders to determine how they ended up. Thus, he divided these leaders into four groups: 1) Cut early, 2) Ended badly, 3) Ended average, 4) Ended well.
You may or may not recognize some of the names, but let’s try to figure out what these four basic end-of-life categories mean to us.
In his book ‘Finishing Strong’, author Steve Farrar quotes Dr. Clinton’s findings: “Cutting early means they have been taken out of leadership by assassinations, killed in action, prophetically denounced or overthrown. Those who were cut off early include Abimelech, Absalom, Ahab, and Josiah. Some of these leaders were good, but most were terrible. Most have a rather tragic story that explains their finish.
Farrar goes on to explain the other three categories. “Bad finish means that they were descending spiritually or in their competence during the latter part of their life. Typical examples of low finish were Gideon, Eli or Salomon. In other words, these leaders were barely able to crawl across the finish line. Either that or they crossed the finish line.
“Done so-so means they haven’t done what they could or should have done.” They haven’t finished what God had for them to do.
“They were pretty good guys like David, Jehoshaphat or Hezekiah, but they didn’t end up strong. They were in the middle of the pack.
“Well done means they were walking with God at the end of their life. They were strong in faith, family and community.
“Examples are Abraham, Job, Joseph, Joshua, Caleb, Samuel, Elijah, Daniel, John, Paul and Peter, to name a few. ”
This category is where we hope to be at the end of our life, isn’t it?
The first three groups of leaders were as talented and called as the fourth group, but why didn’t they finish well? Farrar observes, “All of these leaders were talented and all of them had very impressive strengths. So how come they didn’t finish strong? The answer is this. They didn’t all finish strong because they didn’t survive life’s ambushes. Going through the ambushes of life is what separates professionals from amateurs. The men and women who walk through the ambushes are usually the ones who anticipate the ambushes. This thought deserves our consideration.
Consider King Solomon. Even though he had more wisdom than anyone in his generation, he hadn’t planned for ancient and mighty ambushes. What were the ambushes? Too many women have ambushed him. Money ambushed him. An abandoned family ambushed him. Ouch! Many leaders have suffered the wreck of betrayal and sex, the extreme love of money, and being so busy leading that they haven’t given time to their families.
These ambushes had consequences. Solomon had over 700 wives and 300 concubines. Farrar says, “No wonder he didn’t finish strong. He was exhausted. Solomon had so much money that there was money on the streets of Jerusalem. Solomon’s wives turned his heart against the Lord, and his son Rehoboam divided the nation of Israel shortly after Solomon’s death. I have the impression that Solomon did not spend a lot of time with his son.
Let me add the ambush of pride and status in Solomon’s life. A good self-image is one thing. Excessive pride is another. The 19th century Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle once said: “The greatest fault is not being aware of it. As a result, experts often end up as “ex-thrusts”.
Let’s be smart. There are ambushes everywhere. Life is like a race. It’s how you end your life that matters. In a football or rugby match, a team may have a bad first half but play strong in the second half. Some teams start out strong, have horrible second or third quarters, then win in the fourth quarter.
It is the same in life. If you are alive, and I guess you are reading or not reading this column, even those whose life was average in the first, second, or third trimester can end up strong in the fourth trimester. Remember, you don’t race against others as much as you race yourself.
It’s your race to win or lose. God is always there to help you finish.
While the ambushes of life can open the door to calamity, the grace of God closes the door. So, let’s live in such a way that when we die, even the undertaker will be sorry!