A discussion that’s come up recently with some friends has been the idea of “finishing well.”
When someone says, “I want to finish well,” I wonder how often they mean “I want to build a monument to my accomplishments”? This is probably because I’m naturally a bit pessimistic.
I guess the question that’s been coming to mind is—is that really what we’re called to do?
Do we want to “finish well” and try to protect our idea of what our legacy should be—and in the process see it crumble all around us?
Do we hold so tightly to our ideas of what we think our place in history should be that we fail to see it slipping through our fingers?
Do we spend so much time thinking of the perfect exit strategy that we don’t consider how we can prepare those coming after us?
Is that what we want our legacy to be?
Paul knew what it meant to finish well. He wrote to Timothy,
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. . . . [A]lways be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (2 Tim 4:1-2,5-8)
Undeniably Paul speaks here of finishing well. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” he writes. He persevered until the end.
But how do we know that he’s done all this? Go back to verse one:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus . . . preach the word . . . fulfill your ministry.
“I charge you, Timothy—Run the race. This is what I’ve been preparing you for. I’ve run the race, now it’s your turn. Keep running,” he says. Paul got this better than anyone.
He understood that a legacy isn’t about our accomplishments; it’s about preparing the next generation.
Finishing well doesn’t necessarily mean going down as the greatest person who has ever lived. It doesn’t mean building up an organization to unparalleled levels of success. It doesn’t mean having a big church (or small church if that’s your thing). It doesn’t mean having huge book sales.
The more I look around and see what happens to men and women who make this their focus, whether in business, the church or wherever, the more I’m convinced that it’s the wrong way to look at things.
Finishing well means being faithful, to prepare someone else to carry on the work—and to see them excel beyond your greatest imaginings.
We finish our race, but it doesn’t mean the race is done.
It means we get to pass the baton.