One of the great lessons taught in every sport is the importance of finishing well. An athlete or a team can stumble at the start, but it is how they finish that makes the difference.
On November 26, 1994, 30,000 fans filled Texas Stadium to watch John Tyler play Plano East in a high school football play off game. With three minutes and three seconds left, John Tyler led the game 41 to 17. On the next play, Plano East scored a touch down, then proceeded to recover three on-side kicks to score three more. With 24 seconds remaining, Plano East took the lead 44-41. They kicked off to John Tyler whose returner took the ball on his three yard line and returned it 97 yards. Final score: John Tyler 48, Plano East 44.
Everyone who follows golf immediately recognizes the name, Jean Van de Velde. Leading the British Open at Caroustie in 1999 by three shots, the Frenchman only needed a double bogey 6 on the final hole to claim the coveted Claret Jug. After a series of reckless shots that ended up in the creek protecting the 18th green, he removed his socks and shoes and waded in debating whether to hit from the water He triple bogeyed the hole and lost in a play off.
Robert Cheruiyot of Kenya won the Boston Marathon four times. He was striding triumphantly across the finish line in the Chicago Marathon in 2006 when he tripped. Although he won the race by falling across the finish line, he had to be carried away in a wheel chair.
Most of us can make a good start at whatever we choose. Everyone can sprint at the beginning of a race, but, what matters most is how we finish.
Paul didn’t make a very good start. Known in his youth as Saul, he pursued blind ambition for advancement proudly searching out Christians and throwing them in jail, both men and women. He assisted in the cruel execution of Stephen, an innocent man, stoned to death as the first martyr following Jesus’ resurrection.
But, following his conversion to Christ, he lived a consistent life of faith and finished well. Looking back over his life the Apostle Paul stated, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”
When Jesus prepared for the cross, he said to the Father, “I have finished the work you gave me to do.” The last word he spoke before he died was, tetelestai, “it is finished.” He had demonstrated God’s glory on earth in a perfect, sinless life and “paid in full” the penalty for our sins so that we might have eternal life with Him in Heaven.
You might stumble today. You might regret some things in your past. But a race is still to be run and God gives to everyone the opportunity to finish well.