I’ll never forget my first and only Ironman triathlon finish. It was actually my third triathlon. My first was an Olympic distance and my second was a half iron man, and I had just turned 55. The training to complete the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and the 26.2-mile marathon run was brutal! But with God’s help, I crossed the finish line, victoriously with a smile. The end was better than the beginning!
Duke Senior, in Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” said, “Adversity can have its benefits…we can hear…sermons in the stones, and discover the good in every single thing.” What? Adversity can have its benefits? We can discover good in every single thing? What possible benefits could come out of 2020 with the adversity we have all faced? Was there any good in a single thing? Well, I suppose I could list some things…from my perspective. But what about your perspective? I’m certain that you, if you sincerely look for them, can find some jewels amidst the chaos. Personally, I think how we finish can be a good indication of how we start new beginnings. How we finish 2020 can be an indicator of how we start 2021.
So, Now What?
So, what do we do? Do we curse the adversities of 2020? I would wager that most of us are anxious to start a new year! We gladly leave 2020 behind and hope to erase it from our memory banks. We can’t wait to start writing on a clean slate! But not so fast. 2020, like any other year, was filled with experiences…some pleasant, others not so much. The author of Ecclesiastes declared, “The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.”
You see, it’s not hard to start almost any endeavor with enthusiasm and passion. But what about when you’re almost ½ way through and realize you still have ½ of the way to go and start to get bogged down? How many succumb at the half-way point or even further down the road? How many never finish the race but are always looking for another start because “this time” it will be different? You see, it probably won’t be any different unless I’m different…unless I change my perspective. The end is better than the beginning because the end brings fulfillment and a sense of accomplishment that the start cannot offer. The end is better than the beginning!
Worst year ever?
But if the end can determine our next beginning, how do we want to finish 2020? Do we want to label it the worst year ever? Do we want to leave it with bitterness in our souls? Do we desire to walk away from it like someone who bitterly betrayed us we hope to never see again? How does that potentially endanger new relationships we may strike up if we’re still bitter at how the last one ended?
How we end IS better than the beginning. For me, I’m not cursing 2020. It certainly brought many unexpected things and for me, revealed a lot of things about our government and the direction many of its leaders are wanting to take us. But I don’t want to taint 2021 with 2020’s bitterness, disappointment, or even regret. Nope! Not for me! I want 2021 to be my best year ever and I don’t want 2020’s circumstances to rob me of the best God has in store for not only me, but for the church I am privileged to pastor and for all of us!
The enemy meant it for evil
But if 2021’s start could be determined by 2020’s end, how do I want to finish? I want to finish well so I can start well so I can finish well so I can start well. I think you get the gist of it. Joseph said of his brother’s betrayal, Gen. 50:20 “As for you, what you intended against me for evil, God intended for good, in order to accomplish a day like this—to preserve the lives of many people.” (Berean Study Bible) Kind of hard to argue with Joseph’s attitude with what God did through him, but I doubt that it could have happened had Joseph chosen to curse his circumstances and claim the victim label. As difficult as it may be, I want to present to God my desire for a better 2021. I want to present Him my 2020 victorious (not perfect) finish with a smile on my face, hands raised in the air while leaning into the tape of the finish line. The end of a thing is better than the beginning and “Adversity has it benefits.” With God’s help we can all benefit and finish better than we started. I boldly invite you to start victoriously with me and let’s see what amazing things He has planned for us in 2021!
John Adams has been pastoring New Life Church in Sandusky, Ohio for over 23 years and has served as a law enforcement chaplain for over a decade. He was recently featured as a guest on Michael Hyatt’s “Lead to Win” podcast and teaches “Emotional Survival for Pastors.” For more information, visit: PastorJohn.net