Gilland: Focusing on the finish

Runner crossing finish line

A simple internet search reveals Robert D. Hales is credited with the phrase, “It’s not how you start the race or where you are during the race—it is how you cross the finish line that will matter.” 

Variations of this phrase abound, but the truth contained in this single sentence couldn’t be more profound or relevant in my own life.

I just had a milestone birthday this last week, turning 70 on March 1. I have often joked with my wife that the warranty on my life is about to run out, quoting Ps. 90 as the biblical proof that 70 is listed as the number of man’s years—maybe 80 with extra strength! 

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While I don’t think she likes that joke, the truth remains that, now quoting my Dad, I’m no “spring chicken.”

The concept of ending well is an important one, for many great leaders in the Bible started out strong—but ended poorly. I wrote about such a man back in 2021, when I looked at the life of King Uzziah.

A day after my birthday, I had a call with Robert Leatherwood, a man whom I deeply respect for his passion for Jesus and his seemingly endless energy when it comes to the Kingdom of God. Robert told me of a book that he is writing on finishing strong, using a different king from the Bible as his subject: King Solomon, the son of David.

He, too, is a surprising example of one who started off with great promise, but for all the wisdom God gave him, for all the riches and influence, his life ended rather miserably. 

Robert will discuss his research with me tomorrow on The Shepherd Radio Network, but I don’t think he would mind my sharing a couple of the critical things that we all need to maintain if we have a hope of ending well.

First, we must maintain our love for God and intimacy with Him on a daily basis. We do this through prayer and a daily time in the Bible. This is more than just a simple “verse of the day” reading. I’m talking about an encounter with the Lord where we talk to Him and receive from Him in both prayer and the Word.

A second need that we all have is very practical—we need relationships, and in particular, we need accountability with someone with whom we can—and will—be honest about those areas of our lives where we struggle. 

We all need this kind of safety net, and the very moment we think we can do alright without it is the very moment we are in danger. If it could happen to Solomon, or his father, King David, it could happen to us.

I found my talk with Robert incredibly refreshing, and it has given me a renewed hunger and desire to end my life well. We do not know how many days or years we have. But we all know “that day” is coming eventually. 

And when it does, and I’m about to cross that finish line, I pray that my last breaths will be spent talking about the marvelous truths of the gospel.

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