Finish What You Start

David Burchard Christian Ethics Leave a Comment

A mature man will be armed with good proverbs, passed down to him from those who trod his ancestor’s trails. These proverbs capture truths about reality and provide direction for when decisions must be made, like compasses hardwired into the brain.

Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.

Yield to all and you will soon have nothing to yield.

It matters not so much how you die, but it matters immensely how you live.

A proverb that is regularly employed in the advice department is, “Finish what you start.” Now, this is a superb saying. It promotes manly perseverance, the discharge of responsibility, the commitment to one’s word. It pushes the pushing through pain and obstacles that inevitably visit the breathing. It should be regularly applied to one’s endeavors.

But, logically, this particular proverb is not without exceptions. These exceptions can be boiled down to matters of folly. When you have begun down the road of folly, don’t finish what you’ve started. Otherwise you may find yourself stuck in a big pile of stupid, throwing good money after bad.

The other day I was driving a truck-full of people to a mountain for a good, summer day of hiking. But I was driving on the wrong road. And I didn’t discover this until I was an hour south of our target destination (yes, only a greenhorn would do such a thing). If I’d kept going on that road, I’d have ended up on the wrong side of the mountain range altogether. So what did I do? Did I keep going? Nope. I turned around. I stopped what I was doing and did something different.

Just days before I’d been helping my buddy train for the Marine Corps. We were on the track doing sprint repeats. With but a couple more 100 meter sprints before completion of the workout, he pulled a muscle in his quad. We hadn’t finished what we started. And we never did. Instead, we hydrated and went home to snag an ice pack.

Men aren’t quitters. Men persevere; they grind; they work and toil and sweat. They complete and accomplish. But they should not persevere in folly.

There once was a man who, following a great military victory, swore to God that he would slaughter the first thing that came out of his home to greet him upon his return. What a wicked fool! It was his beautiful daughter who first came out to wrap her daddy up in her arms. Should he have finished what he started, or ceased and desisted? He should have repented of his stupidity and not compounded it with wicked more. Sadly, he proceeded, and killed his own daughter.

There once was a man who made the boneheaded decision to prevent his soldiers from eating anything until the completion of the rout of their enemies, upon penalty of death. Not knowing his father had made such an arrogant announcement, the son ate honey in order to revive his energy in battle. What did this stupid father do when he discovered the actions of his son? He did not do what he had committed himself to do.

As finite beings, we will take courses that are not wise or right, due to our limited foresight. As creatures, we will find good ideas gone bad by changing circumstance, due to God, and not us, being Creator and Author. As fallen beings, we will pursue wicked objects, due to our sinful flesh. If we discover that these things are in fact what we have done, the only wise thing to do is repent, stop, change our minds, and turn around.

This is not to encourage men to start acting like French soldiers in all facets of life. Finish what you start is a good principle. Doggedness is something to be encouraged, just as long as it is doggedness in wisdom and intelligence and righteousness. Understanding when to press on and when to turn around takes much discernment.

We are generally too dumb to do this well on our own. Seeking counsel from fellow church members who know the Bible and who know you will be a significant aid to getting it right.

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