“Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof—and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. Be not hasty in your spirit to be angry—for anger rests in the bosom of fools.”

Ecclesiastes 7:8-9

It’s not how fast we start the race that matters; it’s how strong we finish.

Everyone likely knows the story of the tortoise and the hare. The fast jackrabbit roared off from the starting line in a blaze of glory, leaving the hard-shell plodder in his dust. And, anytime the flop-eared sprinter would see the slow turtle drawing near he’d up and speed off, once again leaving the poor creature far behind.

But, as the story goes, one day the hare decided to take a nap—so confident was he of victory. His slumber was sweet, but much longer than he’d planned. And, when he awoke, to his surprise and dismay the tortoise, who’d been slowly plodding toward the finish line for hours, was only one yard away.

With great bounds and lengthy strides, he sped toward the finish. His ears were back and his tongue hung down as he gasped for breath. But, just as he neared the line and gave a mighty leap, the tortoise crossed the line, winning the victory. And, with a smile on his face, he said “Slow and steady wins the race.”

How true, how true.

Although King Solomon had never heard of Aesop’s Fable, his words echo those of the tortoise: “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof.” And, continuing, he said “And the patient in spirit is better than the proud of spirit.”

Many there are who began their lives with lofty dreams and noble aspirations. They may have been voted “Most Likely to Succeed” by their classmates at graduation. But, somewhere, along the line, “something” happened. And, those dashing dreams crashed and burned on the hard rocks of reality—leaving them bitter in spirit, critical, jaded, etc.

Like the seed that sprouted on the shallow soil, so did they rise like a meteor in their younger years; but, over the years their toils and troubles revealed they lacked sufficient “root” to weather the storms. And, they withered away and became another casualty along the way.

But, oh, dear Pilgrim, when Jesus said “He that endures (Grk. ‘hupomeno’—‘to stay underneath the load, bear patiently, persevere, etc.’) unto the end shall be saved” (Mt. 10:22b), He knew the “patient in spirit” will finish the Race, while the “proud in spirit” shall fall by the wayside.

To “run patiently the Race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1) we must “not be hasty (Heb. ‘bahal’—‘to palpitate, tremble inwardly, be suddenly alarmed, easily agitated, be anxious, etc.’) in spirit to be angry”—for such behavior usually results in foolish behavior and caustic words. May the Holy Spirit help to cultivate a spirit of quiet confidence within us. That way we’ll not give in to hasty words and rash vows and will finish strong at the Finish Line as we receive the Victor’s Cup (II Tim. 4:7-8).

July 19, 2011