It isn't how you start but how you finish

In 2017 on New Year’s Eve in New York City, visitors to Times Square were encouraged to bring whatever they wanted out of their lives and throw it into a giant shredder. Some people shredded paper on which they had written unpleasant memories, while others shredded photographs and even their bills.

That sounds kind of fun, but shredding your bills won’t make them go away. However, I can tell you there’s something even better. We have a great Savior who can help us put our sins behind us. We no longer have to be controlled by past failures or sins.

One sure way to forget your past is to not repeat your mistakes and learn from them instead. That’s why Jesus said, “Remember what happened to Lot’s wife!” (Luke 17:32 NLT).

So why should we remember her?

Well, along with Lot, she was called out of Sodom and Gomorrah and warned: “Run for your lives! And don’t look back or stop anywhere in the valley! Escape to the mountains, or you will be swept away!” (Genesis 19:17 NLT).

But as they were leaving, she looked back. In the original language, the term for “looked back” indicates a deliberate, willful stare. As a result, she turned into a pillar of salt.

Jesus also said, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62 NLT). And Solomon, the wisest person who ever lived, pointed out that “finishing is better than starting” (Ecclesiastes 7:8 NLT).

It doesn’t matter if you start well; it matters if you finish well.
To run this race of life well and to finish it well, we need to look to Jesus. When we keep our eyes on Jesus, it will keep us going in the race of life. That’s important, because things happen that can be discouraging when we follow Jesus. People let us down. Life doesn’t always go the way that we hoped it would go. Tragedies befall us.

Questions go unanswered.

Yet Jesus always has been what he promised to be for me. He’s never failed me once. He’s never let me down. And the Bible tells us that he is the author and finisher of our faith. That means God finishes what he starts.

Not only am I a pack rat, but I’m a procrastinator by nature. Sometimes I’ll start something and not finish it. I might start cleaning up a mess, and when I’m almost finished, I’ll say, “I’ll get to it later.” So that becomes the seed for a new mess.

God doesn’t do that. He finishes what he starts.

Are you worried and discouraged today? Maybe in 2021 you had a major setback spiritually. Maybe you even failed in a significant way. Or maybe you find yourself discouraged or spiritually lethargic and you need a jump-start. You’re thinking: “How do I get back on track? How do I get into the race? What is the secret to running and winning the race of life?”

The secret is Jesus. The New Testament book of Hebrews tells us: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” (12:1–2 NLT).

If you’re a Christian, then God has started a work in your life. And he wants to continue it on. But for that to happen, you need to keep your eyes on Jesus. You need to run your race for him, because he ran his race for you.

Jesus had his back ripped open by a Roman whip 39 times. He picked up a huge cross after he had been whipped and carried it through the streets of Jerusalem. And then they took him to that same cross and nailed his hands and his feet to it, and he hung there.

Why did he do it? What kept him going? How could he complete a task like that? The people had cried out in unison, “Crucify him!” His own disciples largely were in hiding. And one of his own, handpicked friends, Judas Iscariot, had betrayed him.

How easily he could have said: “I’m done here, people! Apparently no one understands why I’ve come to this world and what I’m about to do, so I’m not going to do it.”

However, the Bible says, “Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame” (Hebrews 12:2 NLT). What was the joy set before him? It was you and me. We were that joy. We motivated him. Jesus knew what he would accomplish at the cross, and that was the joy that kept him going.

Maybe you’re thinking, “I wish I could forget my past, but it’s so bad that it’s haunting me right now.”

You can be forgiven of your past. However, if you don’t ask God to forgive your sins, then you’re going to face the full consequences of them. But if you confess your sins, God is “faithful and just to forgive [your] sins and to cleanse [you] from all wickedness” (1 John 1:9 NLT).

You can make a clean break with your past. You can have your sins forgiven and forgotten, and you can start this year off fresh and new, running this race for Jesus.

I like it when it rains. Everything looks so beautiful afterward. In the same way, God can make everything fresh and new in your life today. Things may look dark and tangled and messed up right now. But you don’t need a giant shredder; you need a Savior. That Savior is Jesus Christ, and if you’ll come to him, then he will forgive you.

You can have a fresh start in 2022.

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