I've been thinking a lot lately about relationships that help us finish well. There are five that I can think of right away that have been extremely meaningful to me.
1. Spiritual mentors - who develop us. We need people who are further along than us in the race of life, people who keep us on track, ask us pointed questions, and raise concerns with us. Our responsibility to our spiritual mentors is to come to mentoring times well prepared, to have a list of 3-4 questions that are well thought through, and to be transparent without expecting our mentors to be responsible for us. When you anticipate being with them, draw them out in the area of their strengths. Ask them what their expectations or desires are for your mentoring relationship with them. Tap into the books they are reading. If we are to finish well, one major reason is we paid attention to our mentors.
2. Not-yet followers of Jesus - who focus us outside ourselves. The quickest way to get out of touch with real life is to have no discipling relationships with pre-believers. We never grow beyond sharing the good news of Jesus with people. We are never too busy and never too important and never "not-called not-gifted" to be discipling not-yet followers of Jesus to faith. Those who engage the lost, grow. Those who don't, stagnate in their relationship with Jesus. If we are to finish well, a crucial reason we do is that we are engaged in the lives of people outside the "bubble" of Christian culture.
3. Friends - who stick by us. Good friends are there in the hard times and the good times. They "cheer and teer" at the right moments of life. We don't need friends who always agree with us, or who go silent when we are in pain, and who don't ask us the hard questions, but we do need friends who know how to take the "mickey" out of us, who can just hang and enjoy good music or a great pub or movie. Life-time friendships are rare and are to be treasured and invested in wisely.
4. Leaders - who guide us. A wise man once asked me, "Who can say no to you and make it stick?" That's a leader. It sticks because you want it to, not because they are controlling. Leaders are leaders in our lives because they impact our futures, they go before us to model the way, they walk beside us to coach us, and they come behind us to cheer us on. Your leaders may not be your best buddies, but they can be your best friend - in the sense that they they see what you cannot see and they ask what others will not ask. They believe in you, but loyalty does not trump honesty in their relationship with you.
5. Heroes - who inspire us. Choose your heroes well, because they impact you more than you think. You may or may not know them. They may or may not be alive. But you know them in the sense that you have gotten into their story and it has impacted your values and what you aspire for. You want to be like them... you hang on when it is tough because they did. You make good choices when you face impossible circumstances - because they did. They showed courage, faith, and integrity... and that has pointed the way forward to you and stoked your heart to believe you can do it, too.
Joe Paterno made one bad choice and it marred his reputation and caused him to finish life in a crisis of doubt and disrepute. It's not worth it.. nothing is. Those who hang in there, who keep their eye on the goal, who persevere and don't give up, they get the reward, they win the prize at the end of life.
I want to be one of those people. So do you. We can do it with God's help. Hang on to Him - He will see you to the finish line with fire in your heart and victory in your end-of-life resume'.