To finish life well, focus more on what you do, not say

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Our work consumes much of our lives. Whether you are taking your first job or making the transition to a new career at the end of your life, you would like to look back at what was built and know that you leave a legacy, taking confidence in knowing you have finished well.

Gideon didn't finish well. He was called by God to lead an outnumbered and underequipped army of volunteers against professional soldiers with the God-given guarantee that there would be success. There was success. Following seven years of tyranny, the Lord blessed his people with 40 years of peace. But when Gideon died, so did the peace. He did not finish well.

Finishing well demands living with the understanding that what you do matters more than what you say. Following the tremendous battle for freedom, Gideon was approached to become the king. He adamantly turned down the offer with his words, yet his actions spoke differently. He requested rewards from his soldiers, and they complied, demonstrating submission to him. He created an altar and set it up in his home. All the peoples from all around made a pilgrimage to his home to worship the altar, not the Lord. He lived in his home, reigning in his home for 40 years. While he said strongly, "I will not be your king," he acted as king, and that's how he was treated.

The greatest hindrance to finishing well can be the very success that we achieve. Gideon did not set out to be a hero. He was content being a farmer, the runt of a family of no significance. The Lord used him not because of his natural abilities and position but because he knew who he created Gideon to be. Success as a leader went to his head, blinding him to what God had called him to be and sent him to do. He forgot the very reason he was called. His legacy died with him.

Often what keeps us from finishing well is forgetting the very reason we began. The attraction of success, prestige and admiration drives us away from our first passions, replacing them with the markers of success. The legacy that outlives our lives is not a matter of whatever we deem to be success but a matter of finishing well.

Rob Hurtgen is a husband, father, minister and writer. Read more from him at

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