Many Begin, Few Finish

The end of a matter is better than its beginning;
Patience of spirit is better than haughtiness of spirit.
Ecclesiastes 7:8

A New Year. “A new me!” The gyms across the country fill up with well-intended people who take the start of a new year as a signal to change themselves and improve. New Year’s resolutions abound. It’s a good idea, motivated by a noble desire, which meets a hard reality: patience of one’s life is the key to success, not the bold declarations. Those who hit the gym the first week of January have quit by Valentine’s Day. Chocolate and love is the reward for the not-quite renewed you!

Patient steps toward a noble goal create the desired result. The end of the matter is better than the beginning because the only true test of a resolution, is whether it was completed. Today, we say, “talk is cheap”. Or “you got to walk the walk if you’re going to talk the talk.”

It is common to encourage people to see their need to change and encourage a commitment to make it. We celebrate the commitment they make. Then the meeting ends and things return to normal. The conviction and excitement is gone and the pledge and resolution stand in front of the person, who is suddenly on their own to begin. It is easy for church attendance and involvement to create that exact experience. Discipleship, becoming a follower of Jesus, is a life-long process that is quite involved and, at times, tedious. Jesus said that it is denying oneself, taking up one’s cross and following Him (Mark 8:34). That is some heavy lifting. Unfortunately, discipleship is often pictured as an ecstatic response to a strong and dynamic message of appeal. It is easy to affirm the desire for a change and it feels good to say it. However, when the actual work gets hard, when faith has to put on its boots, the enthusiasm wanes and eventually, the one who has begun, quits.

“Patience of spirit” is linked to “The end of a matter”. The parallelism Solomon draws out is intended to instruct us that to actually achieve what you set out to do is not a result of your enthusiastic proclamations at the beginning of the matter. Winning the pre-game pep rally is a hollow victory. Succeeding and achieving what you set out to do is only accomplished by Read the rest of this entry »