My two older kids just had their cap and gown pictures taken. A few days prior, my husband was going through pictures on his computer and came across a few of them as toddlers. What a difference! It sounds trite to say, but as the parent of high school seniors, it’s a rite of passage! It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were pulling them around the cul-de-sac in their little red, Radio Flyer wagon.
I stood to the side as the photographer’s staff chose the right sizes for them. While one was being photographed in her cap and gown, the other was being photographed in his tux. I thought, We really are here. It’s their turn. They are fixing to start their Senior year! They have begun the “finishing phase” of their academic base.
We’ll begin a series of “lasts” in a few, short weeks.
Their last first day of school
Their last first football game
Their last Homecoming
Their last football game
Their last final exam
Their last day of school
And many more …
For this phase of their lives, we are not at the finish line yet! But they are approaching it.
Of finishing, King Solomon said …
Finishing is better than starting … (Ecclesiastes 7:8)
Don’t long for “the good old days” … (Ecclesiastes 7:10)
Solomon knew that finishing something (and finishing it well) requires persistence and self-discipline. In the middle of difficult tasks, people often tire and want to quit–even when the end is in sight. Senioritis for high school seniors. Short-timer’s disease for people wrapping up their two weeks before starting a new job.
Finishing is different from being finished. There is still work to do! Sometimes that last push of effort is more signifiant than all that went before. That is where character is built! Reward awaits those who finish a task well. For my kids, it will be their diploma, which will allow them to move forward into their future.
In addition, Solomon warned against longing for the “good old days.” Certainly there is nothing wrong with enjoying our memories. Looking at pictures of my kids growing up brings great joy. But we don’t want to live in the past. When we finish the current task well, we are able to eagerly move forward to the next one and also finish it well. This is finishing forward.Finishing is different from being finished. There is still work to do!
The Apostle Paul on finishing …
While Solomon’s message focuses on our physical lives, Paul gives a similar message which focuses on our spiritual lives.
No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved [perfection], but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. (Philippians 3:12-14)
Paul also encourages us not to focus on the past, whether dwelling on past mistakes or our victories. We learn from our mistakes. We remember God’s faithfulness during those times as well as during our victories. But we don’t live there. Instead, while we live in the here and now, Paul encourages us to look forward to our heavenly prize. He set the example with his own life. Faced with his impending execution, he wrote the following to Timothy:
As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6-8)
And Paul finished his race well. He followed Christ faithfully. The crown of righteousness was his reward. Paul tells us that we have the same reward awaiting us if we finish our race faithfully. Below are some tips for doing just that.
- Continue cultivating your relationship with Christ (John 15:4-5)
- Remember that God gives you His strength to accomplish what He calls you to do, especially when you feel weak or unqualified (2 Corinthians 12:9)
- Do every activity (sacred or mundane) as if you are serving the Lord–because you are! (Colossians 3:23-24)
- Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2)
Maybe you’re also student who is approaching senior year. Maybe you are almost finished writing a book. Maybe you are approaching a transition in your job. Maybe you are weary in ministry.
When we fix our eyes ahead and keep working as for the Lord, we are finishing forward! Reward awaits!