I’ve had the privilege of observing several good coaches as I’ve worked with several colleges and professional teams. It is common to hear the admonition of encouragement coaches give to their players – “finish strong” or “finish off the play”. Those athletes who ultimately find their way to the Pro Bowl or All-Star Teams are players who know how to finish strong. They are committed and focused on doing what is required until the whistle blows. They know how to complete the task and are dedicated to working hard on every play.
This past year it has been my privilege to help guide several business leaders along a path of “finishing well” and “finishing strong”. Many of these men have worked very hard on building their business careers or portfolios and are now working just as hard on building a life of significance. Like committed athletes – they want to finish strong!
I believe the concept of finishing well is especially important to all of us with weary hearts. Personally, this has been a very challenging year for my family and our ministry. My experience tells me that this time of the year can be a difficult season for many. The pressures of challenging relationships can get magnified during the holiday season. Orders that are placed or received will impact many businesses and determine if they had a successful year. Unfortunately, some companies in the current business atmosphere must look at year-end as a time to downsize.
I’ve found it helpful to keep focused upon the victory that is ours through a personal and trusting relationship with Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul had numerous imprisonments and difficulties that would have worn down most people. His strong determination kept him focused and allowed the struggling disciple to pen these words: “More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:8.
No amount of punishment, pressure, doubt, fear, or disbelief was going to take away Paul’s victorious moments that would ultimately become stair steps to his success. Paul knew that if he focused upon God instead of his circumstances he would succeed in being an effective witness for Jesus. How else could a man who had been beaten, left for dead, abandoned, and imprisoned write, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
My friend, the answer is as simple as kicking an extra point or shooting a free throw. Paul had a fixed focus on his loving, gracious Savior. The attitude of his heart was set on God. He never forgot the lessons learned along the Damascus Road where he felt God’s unconditional love. Paul was committed to the course laid out before him by God. His target was identified and his purpose was resolute.
I’m convinced that 80% of adjusting to a difficulty is in how we regulate our attitude. Our attitude shapes the way we view life. Are you feeling like you want to quit or are you feeling discouraged? Perhaps you need to more precisely define your goals and commitments. Maybe your focus is on your circumstances rather than your Savior. Remember, the words of a great mentor – the Apostle Paul– “Finish Strong!”
In the last book (letter) the Apostle Paul wrote to the younger Timothy, he stated: “Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.” These words came from a man who was just a few days away from being beheaded. If Paul can be this encouraging in his circumstances, how can we (no matter what our circumstances), reach out and help someone today?