I recently watched a video compilation of athletes who celebrated too early. Sometimes the imagery from such accounts cements an important warning in my mind about finishing well. In this particular video, a triathlon athlete, seeing that his 3-hour race was coming to a promising close, decided to gallantly leap over the finish line instead of run through it. The video captures the runner badly twisting his ankle, bringing him to his knees while the number two runner took first place.
Horrific. Impossible! How could someone make it that far, only to lose at the last second? The image, apparently not uncommon for athletes, ought to spur us on to finish well in our own races by avoiding certain prideful pitfalls. God wants us to run hard. He wants us to win. But how do we finish well? As has often been said, it's not how you start, it's how you finish!
The Value of Restraint
Could it be that it is not what we do, but what we don't do—not what we say, but what we refrain from saying—that differentiates the winners from the "almost" winners? The Bible shows us in at least two passages the wisdom of restraint in our longevity and obedience as individuals and families, especially in the end times.
1. The Ten Virgins (Matthew 25): "Since there will not be enough for us and you, go and buy for yourselves." (Mt. 25:9, ESV) In the parable of the ten virgins, the five wise virgins had done their homework. They had stored up and brought oil along with them to prepare for the worst. In the end, they decided to hold on to the oil that set them apart as those who would indeed attend the wedding.
2. The church in Philadelphia (Revelation 3): "Hold fast to what you have so that no one may steal your crown." (Rev. 3:11, ESV) In the face of a spirit of deceit, the church in Philadelphia was to maintain and protect what they had been given. In doing so, they would stand firm and receive an everlasting reward. Again, this call to restraint was intended to allow them to finish strong and not stumble or stop prematurely.
Who would think that silence, waiting, and maintaining a good pace could be the secrets to success in finishing well! As families and individuals, as well as corporately, what helpful habits and foundational practices do we need to stick with in order to avoid giving away our prize to someone else? Spend some time today making a list of these practices. Talk to your spouse or family about how you can stick to the basics and live uncompromisingly here at the end of all things! Because the best athletes know that the last leg of the race is no time to skip over the fundamentals!