Eric Moussambani of Equatorial Guinea was an unlikely hero of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. The 22-year-old African had only learned to swim 9 months earlier, and had only practiced in a 20 meter pool without lane markers. By special invitation under a special program that permits poorer countries to participate even though their athletes do not meet customary standards, he had been entered in the 100 meter men’s freestyle. After the other two swimmers in his heat were disqualified because of false starts, Moussambani was forced to swim alone. He never put his head under the water’s surface and flailed wildly to stay afloat. With 10 meters left to the wall, he virtually came to a stop. Some spectators thought he might drown. The capacity crowd stood to their feet and cheered the swimmer on. After what seemed like an eternity, the African reached the wall and hung on for dear life. When he had caught his breath and regained his composure, the French-speaking Moussambani said through an interpreter, “I want to send hugs and kisses to the crowd. It was their cheering that kept me going.”
Each of our lives are faced with a fair share of trials, difficulties, and challenges. However, the manner in which we deal with them is often drastically different. Some will dig a trench and hunker down for a fight. But, others will deem the battle not worth it and simply quit. Even among ministers, only 2 out of every 10 that start out in ministry will finish in ministry. In Matthew 10, before Jesus sent His disciples out, He gave them power and instructions. He forewarned of hardship and persecution, and then spoke these words in verse 22, “…but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.” Jesus was not speaking of being saved from sin, but rather of being delivered and protected in the trial. It was a promise to give hope and inspiration when the pressure to give up became intense. When we take inventory of our lives, we are able to easily recognize the potential based on our gifts and abilities. But, I wonder how many of us know what it would take to make us quit? You see, it does not matter how far ahead you are in the race, if you quit running, you lose. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” Jesus has also given us insight into the darkness and dangers that we will find ourselves amidst in the last days. With those clouds seemingly approaching over the horizon, it is urgent that we know why it is important to keep standing when the wind blows the hardest. Consider with me the blessing of enduring to the end.
We honor the Lord’s pattern. In John 4:34, Jesus said to His disciples, “…My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work.” Jesus would teach lessons, perform miracles, and pray with extreme passion. He also faced contentious leaders, demanding crowds, and the crush of betrayal. But, none of these things caused Him to abandon the task of suffering the cross to purchase our salvation. It was on the cross that He would proclaim, “It is finished.” Many things could be said of Jesus, but being a quitter was never one of them. If Jesus has truly made a dwelling place in our heart, then it should stand to reason that being a finisher is woven into our spiritual DNA. That is why the world still mocks the man that “began to build, and was not able to finish.” Over and again in Scripture, those we remember most fondly are those that finish. The Tabernacle was to be precise in its detail, but “Moses finished the work.” Nehemiah labored until “the wall was finished.” Paul ran with singular purpose and “finished my course.” They, too, faced obstacles, opposition, and oppression, but a higher calling gave them courage to not lay down and give up. Jimmy Draper wrote, “We are to be found faithful, no matter what…and our call is to stay the course for Christ.” A man will never know what the Lord could have done unless he lingers long enough to behold it. To pull-up before the finish is to live with the deepest of regrets in life.
We help the Lord’s people. In Deuteronomy 20:8, Moses gave this direction to the priests as they would call men into battle, “…What man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? let him go and return unto his house, lest his brethren’s heart faint as well as his heart.” He was well aware that quitting is contagious, and has the potential of becoming an epidemic. It is imperative that we keep going, not so much for our own integrity, but for the many lives we have influenced. To resign, even for a season, is selfish and has more far-reaching effects than we could ever imagine. Once we stop, it is impossible to know who else will stop and go no further either. Noah lay down for just a moment, and “exposed” his family to disgrace. David paused for a year, and discovered “the sword shall never depart from thy house.” Peter failed the Lord and went back to the old life of fishing, and all the other disciples followed him. Nelson Mandela, the father of democracy in South Africa said, “As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” Just as our tears will often water someone else’s garden, our light gives others the confidence and assurance to keep pressing forward. In time, all of our lives will just be a memory to those coming behind us. We would do well to make the memory a good one.
We hear the Lord’s pleasure. In Matthew 25:21, Jesus said in a parable the words we all should long to hear, “…Well done, thou good and faithful servant…” The parable was a reminder that we should remain faithful until the Lord comes because He always rewards those that are faithful. The one quality you will discover in the lives of those with enduring faith is their keen sense of awareness of an accountability to the Lord. Such knowledge will inspire a man to do what needs to be done whether he feels like it or not. God neither forgets nor overlooks those that continue to trust in His wisdom, timing, and power in trying times rather than shutting down and challenging His reasons. That is why God’s reward is not based on the size of our task, but rather by how faithful we are with our task. Brother Lawrence wrote, “Let us think often that our only business in this life is to please God. Perhaps all besides is but folly and vanity.” David discovered when he pleased God, his enemies were made “to be at peace with him.” Paul noted when he pleased God, he “would abound more and more.” Enoch found when he pleased God, he was drawn into intimate access with God’s presence. When our actions spring from a desire to bring pleasure and joy to our Father’s heart, He then ensures that “all these things shall be added unto you.”
A man who was preparing to run in the Boston Marathon was asked the question, “What do you think are your chances of winning?” He replied, “Winning? Man, I just want to finish!” Such is the desire of my life. I want to finish! A month before college basketball coach Jim Valvano would die with cancer, he gave a powerful word of encouragement. He said, “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.” The moment you stop, you will discover the end is closer than you thought. The God who has seen you through thus far, is the same God who can be trusted to cheer you on to the finish.