In a race, the winner is not the person who starts first, it's the person who finishes first.
(Which is not to say that starting position doesn't matter when you run a race, because it does.)
It doesn't as much matter how you start as how you end. It doesn't matter who passes you in the first flush of enthusiasm and energy at the beginning, it matters who is passing whom at the end.
It's not only how you start, it's how you finish.
I was just reading about King Asa of Judah, in my devotions. King Asa was a good king. He sought God when he was first king. He had lots of victories as a young king. He relied on the Lord, and God fought his (rather daunting) battles for him. He built fortifications and cities and was a good ruler.
For like 36 years.
But, in the last couple years of his long reign, he really made some bad choices.
One of his enemies was encroaching on his territory. Instead of praying about it, and letting God deal with it (like he did as a young king) he made an alliance with an enemy who wasn't a believer. Not a good choice in Biblical terms. The friend of his enemy became his friend and the enemy of his enemy.
Problem solved. Except God wasn't pleased.
There was a warning from a prophet, and Asa could have repented. He could have corrected course.
But he didn't. He got angry, threw the prophet in jail, and started oppressing his people. He basically ran down that wrong path.
Not long after, Asa got some weird foot disease. Instead of turning to God, The Healer, he turned to doctors.
He sought healing from doctors, not God. And he ended up dying of that foot diease.
Plus, double bummer...we get to read all about it in the Bible. Embarrassing...
So, what is the moral of the story?
Well, it's not that you shouldn't go to doctors. That would be the wrong conclusion to form.
Here's what I see in this account of Asa.
When we are young, we have enthusiasm and we are impulsive, and we see potential, and dream big dreams. We aren't as jaded by life and reality. In our youth, we are often literally poor, and we have to depend on God. He is our only recourse.
It can be easier to live by faith, because the stakes don't seem as great. Why not's are more convincing than why's.
As we get older, we get wiser. We count the cost. It's not that we doubt God, it's that we feel like we've got this one. After all, we're not spring chickens. We've lived life. We've got some common sense, accrued from a life time of experience.
Which isn't the worst thing, actually.
The worst thing is when we forget to really take God into account. When we don't rely on Him to solve our problems, because we have other options now. "I've got this one, God!"
And we ended up, well, frankly, we end up not ending our race well.
That scares me. It is sobering as I am celebrating another birthday this week.
I don't want my epitaph to be...
That Bernadette, well, she started great, but she burned out at the end. She lost steam. She relied on herself. She didn't finish well.
In order to finish well, I need to run well today. And tomorrow. And each day after that. And, if I stumble, I need to pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again. Not in my own strength, but in God's. Not for my glory, but for Christ's. I can course correct today.
I want to be still relying, still seeking the Lord-today, tomorrow, next week, next year. All the way to the end. I want to be serving-in His strength. I want to be following-His leading.
I want to be known as Bernadette, the one who did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. The one who sought the Lord with her whole heart. I want there to be no..."except in the matter of_______".
I want my heart to be softer. I want to be faithful. I want to never lose the wonder of being redeemed.
More than starting well, I want to finish well.