When Finishing Well Means…
The relay races during the track and field events at the Olympics are my favorite to watch. They are nail biting not just because of the ultimate finish line but the all-too important exchange zone that each runner has to pass through along the way. The success or failure of the baton swaps in these 20-meter long areas make all the difference. Many a team has lost a hard fought battle when a baton has been dropped during the exchange. This critical zone can’t be taken lightly. Every step, every maneuver, every action in it matters. The seconds; the milliseconds count. In a relay, each runner has to be conscious of the entire team. Their leg might be individually impressive but it is only significant to the extent that it connects well with the next. One runner can’t relish in their own success and neglect the seminal passing of the baton to the next. They have to be willing to let go; to relinquish; to let someone else finish the race.
How foolish would it look for the first runner to keep running past the exchange zone, baton in hand, in celebration of their own lap? Without the exchange, the win would be forfeited for the entire team.
David might have something to say about this. He had the baton. He intended to build a house for Yahweh. His desire was pure and honorable. Yet, even this noble aspiration was met with a heavenly halt. In 1 Chronicles 17, God instructed the prophet Nathan to tell David that he would not build the house but that one of his ancestors would instead. Disappointment and confusion must have set in as he digested what he was hearing. He had to decide whether he would selfishly hang on to the baton of his goals or willingly prepare to pass it on to the one whom God would appoint?
He chose the better, yet often more difficult option: to cheerfully and willingly do what God had asked of him and then pass on the assignment to his son Solomon for completion.
All these years later that temple is still referred to as “Solomon’s Temple”. Far and near, this grand structure is lauded for its opulence and it’s builder has been esteemed. But what of David – he didn’t build it…but he did prepare for it. He collected the materials, accumulated the money, and made arrangements for the temple’s erection. He did his part – with eager enthusiasm and then…he let go.
He handed the baton to someone else.
Solomon’s success was built on the strong foundation of his father’s provision. Had David undervalued or neglected his part, Solomon could not have successfully done his. But this wise man accepted his leg of the race, excelled in it, then passed on the baton to another. In time, the work was complete.
David knew how to be finished…even when the project wasn’t.
I wonder how many divine missions, mandates and ministries are aborted by selfish Christians who refuse to do their part with excellence and then happily relinquish the task to the person God has anointed with His favor to run next. So consider this: Will you be content if God asks you to participate in a certain assignment, only to a point? Will you be willing, at His bidding, to walk away and pass on the baton to another when He asks you to? When you’ve dreamed up the organization, spent time and energy laying a foundation, crafted out a mission but then sense God’s Spirit whispering “enough”, it can be hard to let go. Instead of gracefully and even cheerfully stepping aside, we can be tempted to greedily cling to ministries, positions, aspirations or dreams long after we’ve passed through the zone of divine exchange. How will we respond when “finishing well” means not finishing – but allowing another to cross the finish line in our stead? It’s a hard but pivotal ministry principle.
But we can do it.
We must do it.
Accepting the divine mission, and the timing of our part in it, is one of the most undervalued nuances of victorious Christian living and if we aren’t sensitive to the Spirit in this area the result will be impotent leadership, wilted churches, powerless ministries, crippled visions, stunted families and limited, narrow aspirations. Kingdom work is hampered and spiritual progress is thwarted.
But if we’ll do our part and do it well, then step back so our sisters and brothers can do the same, we’ll all share in the victory of a race well run.