“I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course…”
(Paul, Acts 20:24)
“…I have finished my course…”
(Paul, 2 Timothy 4:7)
Of late, I keep hearing the words “finish well.” A seminary professor once did a study on 100 Bible characters whose placement in the scriptures figures prominently. In all actuality, there are over 800 chief leaders in the Bible but only sufficient data is given for a C-note’s worth of them. What he found is quite revealing in this matter of finishing well. The study cites each of these conspicuous luminaries concluded their lives in one of five ways:
- They were “cut off” (Samson, Josiah)
- They finished poorly (Gideon, Saul, Solomon)
- They finished “so-so” (Hezekiah, Jehoshaphat)
- They finished well (Abraham, Job, Joshua)
- We’re not sure (just not enough data to determine)
The professor uncovered an alarming fact: barely 30% of all leaders in the pages of the Bible finished well. Thirty percent, beloved! More than two-thirds were sidetracked or shipwrecked by abuse of power, pride, ego, illicit sexual affairs, or improper use of finances.
The inspiration for this piece comes from something I read last evening as I was lounging in my backyard, utterly absorbed in a novel. The main characters in the book were aboard an ocean liner, not for pleasure, but to uncover a murderous plot. But that’s beside the point. One of the story’s protagonists referred to the vessel as a “cruise ship” during dinner conversation. The ship’s First Officer corrected her, pointing out they were sailing aboard an ocean liner, not a cruise ship. There is a “world of difference” between the two; the point of the cruise ship is the cruise itself. The predominant purpose of an ocean liner is to transport people to their destination.
That got me thinking.
Many—and I’m talking about those who wear the moniker “Christian” here—approach life as if merrily sailing along was their God-given right, taking in the sights, living from meal to meal and occasionally enjoying ports of call whereby they may stretch their legs and amass souvenirs of the trip. That sounds okay, except it has one fundamental flaw. That’s not living on purpose!
The ocean liner is built for speed and sea-keeping. Because its hull is more pointed than a cruise ship, it can travel upwards of 30 knots (35 mph). Its hull is also stronger, making the vessel well able to cross the open seas in all kinds of weather. While a cruise ship runs away from storms, the ocean liner draws a bead on its destination and nothing, no nothing, can deter it. The ocean liner will plow straight through a storm, never veering from its course, always with the objective of arrival. On time. In one piece. With no loss of life.
This is the life we were meant for. While some opt for the cruise, those who truly know what they are designed and destined for, will gladly forego the joyride and treasure the journey. That’s not to say we will not have seasons of refreshing—like reading a novel in the backyard. Oh, there will be opportunities for stargazing and feasting in lavish banquet halls, but we must always be vigilant to “fight the good fight” against the elements that would sink us. They’re out there, and they are relentless.
Keep your eyes to the shore, fellow oarsmen. Let’s finish the course. And let’s do it together.