Friday, August 8, 2008

Great Finishes

We love great finishes. Every starting line exists for a finish line.

The Olympics begin today. The opening ceremonies capture the collective attention, imagination and breath of the world. It is exponentially true for the athletes gathered to compete. The intensity and adrenaline they feel at the beginning of the Olympics are directly related to anticipating the finish lines they will face in the days ahead. Races are ultimately decided at the finish line, sometimes by thousandths of seconds. It is the moment they have prepared and sacrificed for.

Life too is ultimately defined at the finish line. Randy Pausch was a professor at Carnegie Mellon diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He received a lot of attention in the months preceding his death last Friday for his “last lecture” (see below). With amazing poise and clarity, he laid out the core convictions of his life as he approached its earthly finish. Noel Tichy in his book The Leadership Engine calls personal core convictions Teachable Points of View (TPOV). We teach and communicate them through the content of our lives. There is something about an approaching finish line that gives heightened clarity to what matters.

The Apostle Paul was clear about his TPOVs and finish line. Near the finish of his life he wrote:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store 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 longed for his appearing. 1 Timothy 4:7-8

Jesus had the same kind of clarity and focus. “My food,” Jesus said when mentoring his friends and followers in his TPOVs, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work” (John 4:34). Approaching the finish line he prayed:

Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. John 17:1-5

Hours later, as he crossed the finish line for the sake of the world, “Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit (John 19:30).

What does the finish line look like for you? When you cross it, will you find yourself at the end of the race you meant to run? Jesus said it matters. The good news is this moment can be a new starting line in your life. The prize is far better than a wreath of leaves or even a gold plated medal. Jesus promises it is gift of looking the God of Creation in the eyes and hearing His voice say ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful … Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21 and 23).

Every starting line exists for a finish line. We love great finishes.

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