Is it More About the Start or the Finish?

by Steve Gladen

In January, for whatever the reason, people are open to make that big “start”. Whether it is to work on weight, a habit, personal or spiritual goals; January, more than any other month, is the month to make the “start”. My wife, Lisa, and I use the first Friday of the month of January to set our spiritual goals through our Health Assessment. We have been doing that since 1999. Although January is a great time to assess and create goals, how our assessment looks in December is just as important. Ecclesiastes 7:8 says, “Finishing is better than starting” NLT.

How you finish will be the snapshot of your legacy. Luke 10:30-37 is a great parable that speaks to so many leadership parts of our life and ministry. It is the story of the Good Samaritan. The priest, the one who knew best the right thing to do—didn’t. It was the “nobody,” the Samaritan, who finished the day the way God wants us to! We all start our day with goals (knowing or not knowing) and we pray to finish according to our plan. But what if God wants to change our day, the finish? Do we adjust or walk on by like the Priest did? What if our finish isn’t God’s finish? This can play out in our day, weeks, months, years or lifetime.

Do you remember a while back the news the story in China where the toddler was hit by a car…twice! Security cameras caught 20 people walking by this toddler bleeding and unable to help itself. People looked, stepped around and even pretended the bleeding child wasn’t there. Then someone, a trash picker, stopped and did what 20 people wouldn’t do. They could of done something, but they wouldn’t! Twenty people that night wished they had finished better, they felt like a zero, however one became a hero.

Starting is very important! Finishing is just as important! Finishing God’s agenda God’s way is critical to your day, week, month, year and legacy! So, as you look at the time you have, whether it is a short time or a lifetime, think through this acrostic on FINISH:

Focus on your life plan. If you don’t have one, get one. Don’t know where to start? Seek the advice of someone you admire and ask them for suggestions. If you don’t know your end destination, you’ll never arrive. You don’t have to know it in perfect detail (as in your lifetime plan) but you should have a good idea for the short haul. What’s the main thing for you? I love what Martin Luther King Jr. said, “If a man hasn’t discovered something that he would die for, he isn’t fit to live.”

Inspire those you come in contact with. Hebrews 3:13 talks about how encouragement has the power to restrain sin. Inspire, encourage, and breathe life into people. It’s what God cares about! Whether it be a spouse, child, roommate, neighbor classmate, toddler bleeding on the road; do the right thing.

Never give up. You are the only you. God has you on this earth for a strategic purpose. He has no plan B, you are it. If He has called you to something, don’t leave till he releases you. Stay the course…period! Having others around you helps you navigate the tough days. Check out www.smallgroupnetwork.com to connect with others who are like minded!

Inform others of your plans. Telling others what you plan to do builds accountability into your plans. When others know, you win. Make sure you have a what, a when, and a who for each of your plans! Also, most people set goals too high and too soon. Make your goals crawl, walk and run. Make them easy in the beginning, and slowly increase over time. You have a lifetime ahead and we want you to finish strong and win the race. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14.

Service, not serve-us! John 13 shows Jesus’ servant heart. Make sure you never arrive at a place in life where you can’t serve those around you. Service is your character curriculum. In John 13, any of the disciples could have served the other. They were too busy jockeying for position and missed the opportunity of a lifetime. Don’t miss the simple things before you to help those around you.

Heart, Head and Hands. To make the finish, you need to engage your heart, head, and hands. Here’s how. Heart – have others in your life that can check your soul care. Are you in a good zone or dangerous zone? Have people that can speak into your soul. Head – keep good stuff coming in and bad stuff out. Simple plan, but where so many don’t finish strong. The battle to all things, good or bad, starts in the brain. What fills your mind the most? Even neutral stuff like sports or shopping, can be toxic. Hands – stay close to the sheep. Never grow your ministry so large that you cannot stay in touch with the sheep. It may not be direct reporting, but get your hands dirty.

I am praying you not only start well, but use this acrostic to finish strong!

Steve Gladen is the Pastor of Small Group Community at Saddleback Church. His latest book is entitled Small Groups With Purpose: How to Create Healthy Communities. Leading Small Groups With Purpose: Everything You Need to Lead a Healthy Group, written especially for small group leaders, publishing the first week of February, is available for preorder now.

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