Fools at the Finish Line: Six Ways to Undermine your Legacy

by Andy Wood on May 4, 2009

in Consumers, Five LV Laws, Gamblers, LV Alter-egos, LV Cycle, Pleasers, Principle of Legacy, Protecting Your Investment

runner-painI went to the Fred Flintstone School of Golf.  Simple philosophy:  when in doubt, hit the ball really hard.  When not in doubt, hit the ball really hard.

Maybe you’ve heard that old saying about golf – “You drive for show, and putt for dough.”  Suffice it to say, I’ve never made any money hitting a ball in a hole with a stick.  I have, however, put on a show or two by hitting a ball off a stick.

All of that is fine and fun, so long as you’re dealing with woods and wedges.  Life, however, is a different story.  A mere proverb in the Gentleman’s Game is brutal reality in the real world:

It’s not how you drive, but how you arrive.

Not how you start, but how you finish.  Magilla Gorilla and Fred Flintstone need not apply.

Life is filled with real and proverbial stories of people who started well, but finished poorly.  Rather than leaving a heritage, with inspiring and ennobling footsteps to follow, their names and stories are relegated to footnotes and questions that begin with, “Whatever happened to…”?

It’s up to you.  Will you be a driver, or an arriver?  I must warn you, if you decide to go the distance, the deck is stacked against you.  This is a marathon, not a dash, and you’re surrounded by gloriously mediocre runners and a grandstand full of fat critics.  But you do have a Coach – the Lord Jesus, Author and Finisher of your faith. Under His direction, you’ll learn to identify these six fool makers and finish breakers:

1. Unnecessary Weights

Runners train by wearing weights on their ankles.  But you’d never see a marathoner show up to an actual event with them.  Races aren’t exactly coat-and-tie affairs, either.  The goal of the runner is to be light and free.

Too bad we often miss that point off the track.  I’ve known many people who are multi-talented, but mole-blind to their limitations.  I created a lot of pain for many people, myself included, because in my youthful arrogance, I thought I could handle it.

Extra monthly payment here?  No problem.  I can handle it.

Another time commitment there?  Sure.  I can handle it.

Like the seed that fell on the thorn-laced ground in Jesus’ story, “the attractions of this world and the delights of wealth, and the search for success and lure of nice things come in and crowd out God’s message from [my heart]” (Matthew 4:19, LB).

“Everything is permissible,” Paul said, “but not everything is beneficial” (1 Corinthians 10:23).  You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.  If you fail to discern the difference between the good and the best, between the optional and the essential, you’ll never finish well.

2.  Repeated Failure

I once had a youth pastor who was very influential in my growth and leadership development.  He wound up leaving the church abruptly, and I happened to be the last person he spoke to before he climbed into his rental truck and hauled his family and possessions away.

“I’m 24 years old,” he said, “and I’m not going to waste the rest of my life.”

Know what he’s done since then?  Wasted his life.  That’s how those who have known him will remember him.

To some people, one failure is fatal.  They can become so consumed with guilt and shame that without a grace awakening, they never seem to rise out of the ditch of self-condemnation.

There’s another ditch, however, that’s just as fatal, and that’s accepting consistent failure as normal.  That’s why Hebrews encourages us to “lay aside… the sin that so easily entangles us.”

I’m deeply grateful for the liberating truth of 1 John 1:9, but it doesn’t have to become your life verse!  Read this carefully:  Your worth isn’t measured by your performance, but your memory IS measured by your endurance.

Look at Judas.  Here was a man who was just as instrumental in preaching the gospel, healing the sick, casting out demons, and a host of other life-changing ministries as James or John.  But nobody remembers that.  They only hear the haunting echoes of tumbling silver and the tortured cry, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood!” (Matthew 27:4)

3. Distorted Vision

Competitive runners talk of the importance of maintaining stride.  It’s easier said than done.  It requires focus on a target – a finish line.  And for some people, their focus is their downfall.

When you look to the grandstands for the pleasure of the crowd instead of looking to Jesus, you will lose stride.  Same is true when you compare yourself to the “other runners,” or look back at where you have been.

When you gaze at the impossible distance you focus on your feelings or weaknesses instead of looking to Jesus, you will lose stride.   The Christian life is about Jesus, not you, the pack you run in, or the crowds rooting for or against you.  Focus on Him; it’s the only way to maintain stride.

4.  Overwhelming Resistance

The world resisted Jesus, and will resist you on some level if you follow him.  Many a passionate believer, much like Peter, found their faith and testimony on the rocks because they felt alone against the crowd and blew it.

It’s easy to say, like our fisherman friend, “Even if everyone else falls to pieces on account of you, I won’t” (Matthew 26:33, The Message).  But when everybody around you is pushing against the Lord, and it seems as though the easiest way out of the situation is to go along to get along, you’re ripe for a failure of epic proportions.

You can’t avoid the reality of resistance.  But you can make sure you don’t fight your battles on the basis of your own pride and passion.

5.  Total Exhaustion

People do stupid things when they’re hungry, angry, lonely, or tired.  That why the writer of Hebrews recognized the connection between growing weary and losing heart.  But that speaks to us on multiple levels – our spiritual life, our emotional life, our mental life, and our physical life.  Each life dimension requires food, rest, exercise, and care.  If you’ve been running on “empty” for an extended period of time, regardless of the “gauge,” you face the danger of making impulsive, in-the-moment choices that can have devastating long-term consequences. Not one component of your “system” was made for continuous operation.  Even the Lord God of Heaven took a day off.

6.  Personal Isolation

The recipients of the letter to the Hebrews were undergoing intense stress.  And somehow they had lost sight of where God was in the situation.  The word for this is isolation.  The truth is, none of us were intended to run or fight or serve or give or do anything, for any length of time, alone.  That’s why Solomon recognized that “A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; He rages against all wise judgment” (Proverbs 18:1, NKJ).

The most convenient way that Satan has to make you tomorrow’s byword is to separate you from friends, family, or Christ-centered community.  The Bible reads like a Who’s Who of failure-in-isolation. David, Samson, Judas, Peter – all powerful in their drive, but all limping when they arrived, if they arrived at all.

Finish well.  You’re in a marathon.  The human odds are against you.  But the stakes are enormously high, and the promise of this race is that you never run alone.

Mattie May 5, 2009 at 10:21 pm

Andy, extremely timely words of wisdom. This is one to ponder and chew on. Thanks.

Matties last blog post..And a Little Child Shall Lead Them

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