Do You Finish What You Start?
Helpful facts that young people want to know
MUCH of human happiness comes through accomplishment. The person who decides to learn to play a musical instrument, and stays with it until he can, gets enjoyment from it. The one who quits soon after starting never gets that joy.
The same is true of manual arts, woodworking, carpentering, mechanics, sewing, or projects of a mental kind, such as learning a language or mathematics. In any undertaking, assignment or job, if you see it through, you will get satisfaction and pleasure from it.
However, in this matter of finishing what we start, we all have certain tendencies we have to outgrow or overcome.
WHERE THE PROBLEM LIES
For example, in our first few years as children we had a very limited attention span. Even in play a small child’s attention does not stay fixed very long; it is easily distracted.
As we grow, our powers of concentration develop. But to a large degree we have to cultivate these. It is worth it because this can change learning from a painful chore to something bringing enjoyment.
The ability to concentrate requires that we overcome another trait characteristic of small children: impatience. Children usually want things NOW! And when they try to do something and do not succeed in a few attempts, they generally are ready to quit. Appreciating that some of the most worthwhile things in life take considerable time and effort to attain will help you not to give up easily.
Another trait to be overcome is that of undertaking things hastily, just on impulse. Proverbs 21:5 tells us: “The plans of the diligent one surely make for advantage, but everyone that is hasty surely heads for want.” So, before you embark on some project or accept some assignment or job, first of all make sure it is something genuinely worth while.
In some cases the wise thing to do is not to finish what you start. How so? Because sometimes it was a bad idea from the beginning. The goal may be a wrong one, one that is out of harmony with right principles and the counsel of God’s Word.
On the other hand, the goal may not be bad in itself, but is it a good one for you? And is it worth the time and effort it is going to take to reach it? Do you have good reason to believe you can reach it?
Jesus told of the man who sets out to build a tower without first figuring out the cost and whether he can meet it or not. As Jesus said, the man may lay the foundation and then find that he can go no farther, causing observers to laugh and say, “This man started to build but was not able to finish.” (Luke 14:28-30) So, if you want to finish what you start, count the cost beforehand.
Weigh advantages against disadvantages. Ask others their opinion, especially your parents. Benefit from their experience; they have made mistakes and can steer you away from these. The Bible is an outstanding source of wise and practical counsel. King Solomon, for example, did about all a man can do in the way of seeking pleasure in purely material things. He gives us the result: It was just “a striving after wind.” So, why should we take up a similar worthless pursuit?—Eccl. 2:3-11; compare 1 Timothy 6:17-19.
Confidence that your goal is really worth while can keep you from quitting. Planning how to reach that goal is also vital. What steps or methods will you use?
Many young persons fail to finish what they start because they become discouraged. They find that what they undertook is harder than they thought it would be. Or some unforeseen, and perhaps unforeseeable, problems or obstacles spring up. What now?
It is easy to quit. But this situation reveals what a person is really made of.
If you let hardships fill you with negative and pessimistic thoughts, this will rob you of the strength to go on. Proverbs 24:10 says: “Have you shown yourself discouraged in the day of distress? Your power will be scanty.” Instead, look on the situation as a challenge. Rise to meet it with extra effort—extra thought, energy and time. Challenges can make life interesting if we do not run away from them. By overcoming, you grow in confidence and resourcefulness. You can then undertake future tasks with greater assurance and enjoyment.
So avoid developing a wrong habit or personality pattern of quitting just because the going gets hard. Otherwise, the next time things get difficult, your tendency will be to do the same, “throw in the towel,” quit. By not letting this habit get a start, you can keep your life from becoming just a series of failures and unfinished projects.
GOD VALUES THOSE WHO PERSEVERE
The Bible shows that God expects his servants to show determination, stick-to-itiveness. Consider Noah. The ark that he and his sons built was a three-story chestlike structure half again as long as a football field. It was no “weekend project.” But because he saw the job through to its finish, Noah and his family survived the Deluge and we, his descendants, are alive today.
Among Christians, the apostle Paul gives us a real example of tenacity and resourcefulness. To him, his particular assignment or ministry was a treasure, worth enduring all manner of hardship to retain. He was willing to undergo tribulations, cases of need, beatings, stoning, imprisonment, hard labor, sleepless nights, thirst, hunger, cold and lack of clothing, being falsely accused, experiencing dangers, not only from enemies of the truth but also from common criminals and even wild beasts and the forces of nature, as he traveled over land and sea. (2 Cor. 6:3-10; 11:23-28) Because he was not a quitter, he could truthfully say he had ‘fought the fine fight, run the course to the finish, observed the faith.’ He was confident of coming off victorious and receiving the promised reward. (2 Tim. 4:6-8; Rom. 8:35-39) Would not you say he was a worthwhile person to imitate?
DEVELOPING PERSEVERANCE IN YOUTH
Youth is the time to begin building a pattern of perseverance, of seeing things through to their finish. In school, some courses are easier, some appeal to you more than others. But if you work just as hard or even harder at those you do not like so well, you get double benefit. You not only get knowledge but also strengthen your powers of concentration and determination. Some educators say that the most valuable thing any of us get from school is learning how to study, how to apply ourselves, to dig out information, get the sense of it and make it our own.
So, too, with any jobs you take on outside of school. Some jobs appeal, some do not. But you can learn something from any job. Do not look just at the surface or immediate benefits a job may give in training, abilities to be acquired, or pay. Think also of the molding effect it can have on you as a person. Even a simple, low-paying, laborious job can do a lot in maturing you and developing your strength of personality.
Learn perseverance too in personal relations. To be really happy we must be able to get along well with others, work effectively with others and get their cooperation, gain their respect, and feel we are appreciated by others. You cannot do this if you are quick to “give up on” people, initiating friendships and then dropping them at the first sign of disagreement or letting friction break up work arrangements with others. Examine yourself. Do you not sometimes give offense to others? Do you give up on yourself? Then why be quick to give up on others? Take the time needed to work out problems with patience and determination, building along positive lines, using thought and resourcefulness. (Compare Proverbs 14:29; 2 Timothy 2:23, 24.) Being able to do this is what spells the difference between success and failure in most marriages.
If you prove that you are not one who gives up easily, not a quitter or a dropout, you will earn the confidence and respect of others. While yet a young man, Timothy was “well reported on by the brothers” in two different towns. (Acts 16:2) That is why the apostle Paul selected him as a traveling companion. Timothy had unique privileges, going with the apostle throughout many parts of the Roman Empire. After about a dozen years of faithful service, he was entrusted with weighty responsibility, was authorized to appoint overseers in congregations. (Phil. 2:19-22; 1 Cor. 4:17; 1 Tim. 3:1-15) He did not have the best of health. (1 Tim. 5:23) But he heeded the apostle’s exhortation to “stay by” the things learned, to ‘accomplish fully’ the particular ministry assigned him, both in favorable season and in troublesome season, proving himself a real soldier of Christ Jesus, willing to endure hardships and unpleasantness. (1 Tim. 4:11-16; 2 Tim. 4:2-5; 2:3) Yes Timothy could be relied on to stay with his assignment and do thorough work. He was a man to be trusted. But it took time and perseverance to merit that trust.
Yes, by proving yourself a person who sees things through, you can gain many privileges and benefits. Really, life itself is at stake in this matter. Jesus said of those following him: “He that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.” (Matt. 24:13) We are in a race for life everlasting as persons enjoying God’s approval. We will gain that prize only if we develop the ability to see things through, proving our mettle in the face of problems and hardships. By finishing what we start in smaller things, we can persevere in the bigger ones too.—Luke 16:10; 1 Cor. 9:24-27; 2 Tim. 2:5.
So “whatever you are doing, work at it whole-souled as to Jehovah, and not to men,” for it is from God that you will receive the reward that really counts.—Col. 3:23, 24.