Finishing the Course

Not enough is said or written today about finishing well.

A tremendous amount of material is available on motivation to get started and creative ways to spark initiative. Plenty of advice is floating around on setting goals and establishing priorities and developing a game plan. All of it is insightful and needed. Getting off the dime is often a Herculean task, for sure. Starting well is Plan A, no doubt about it.

But let’s hear it for the opposite end, for a change. Let’s extol the virtues of sticking with something until it is done. Of hanging tough when the excitement and fun fade into discipline and guts. You know, being just as determined eight minutes into the fourth quarter as at the kickoff. Not losing heart even though the project has lost its appeal.

I fear our generation has come dangerously near the “I’m getting tired so let’s just quit” mentality. And not just in the spiritual realm. Dieting is a discipline, so we stay fat. Finishing school is a hassle, so we bail out. Cultivating a close relationship is painful, so we back off. Getting a book written is demanding, so we stop short. Working through conflicts in a marriage is a tiring struggle, so we walk away. Sticking with an occupation is tough, so we start looking elsewhere. This reminds me of something my sister passed along to me, titled “Six Phases of a Project”:

  • Enthusiasm
  • Disillusionment
  • Panic
  • Search for the guilty
  • Punishment of the innocent
  • Praise and honours for the nonparticipants

By the time a project has run its crazy course, confusion has replaced accomplishment. Participants have changed to spectators. The “let’s just quit” mentality is upon us.

Ignace Jan Paderewski, the famous composer-pianist, was scheduled to perform at a great concert hall in America. It was an evening to remember—black tuxes and long evening dresses, a high-society extravaganza full bore. Present in the audience that evening was a mother with her fidgety nine-year-old son. Weary of waiting, he squirmed constantly in his seat. His mother was in hopes that her boy would be encouraged to practice the piano if he could just hear the immortal Paderewski at the keyboard. So—against his wishes—he had come.

As she turned to talk with friends, her son could stay seated no longer. He slipped away from her side, strangely drawn to the ebony concert grand Steinway and its leather tufted stool on the huge stage flooded with blinding lights. Without much notice from the sophisticated audience, the boy sat down at the stool, staring wide-eyed at the black and white keys. He placed his small, trembling fingers in the right location and began to play Chop Sticks. The roar of the crowd was hushed as hundreds of frowning faces turned in his direction. Irritated and embarrassed, they began to shout:

“Hey, get that boy away from there!” “Who’d bring a kid that young in here?” “Where’s his mother?” “Somebody stop him!”

Backstage, the master overheard the sounds out front and quickly put together in his mind what was happening. Hurriedly, he grabbed his coat and rushed toward the stage. Without one word of announcement he stooped over behind the boy, reached around both sides, and began to improvise a countermelody to harmonize with and enhance Chop Sticks. As the two of them played together, Paderewski kept whispering in the boy’s ear: “Keep going. Don’t quit, son. Keep on playing...don’t stop...don’t quit.”

And so it is with us. We hammer away on our project, which seems about as significant as Chop Sticks in a concert hall. And about the time we are ready to give it up, along comes the Master, who leans over and whispers: “Now keep going; don’t quit. Keep on...don’t stop; don’t give up,” as He improvises on our behalf, providing just the right touch at just the right moment.

Do I write today to a few weary pilgrims? Is the road getting long and hope wearing a little thin? Or to a few parents who are beginning to wonder if it’s worth it all, this exacting business of rearing children—which includes cleaning up daily messes and living with all that responsibility? Or to you who have a dream but seeing it accomplished seems too long a wait? Listen to the Master’s whispering:

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9 NIV)

Therefore...stand firm. Let nothing move you...your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)

Be self-controlled and alert.... Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. (1 Peter 5:8, 10)

So many start the Christian life like a lightning flash—hot, fast and dazzling. But how many people (aged 65 and over) can you name who are finishing the course with sustained enthusiasm and vigour? Oh, there are some, I realize, but why so few? What happens along the way that swells the ranks of quitters? I really wish I knew that answer. If I did, I’d shout warnings from the pulpit Sunday after Sunday. No, better than that, I’d stoop over and whisper them to every discouraged person I meet. Before it is too late.

I urge you, my friend, to stay strong to the end. Never give in. Never quit the Christian life.

Finish well.

Copyright © 1992, 2015 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved.