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Through the Finish Line

What does it take to be a finisher?


When Elder Clark G. Gilbert, Commissioner of the Church Educational System, was in high school, he competed in an important track meet. He crossed the finish line, ready to celebrate his impressive victory over all the other runners. It was only then that he realized he’d miscounted the laps. He still had one more to go!

In the BYU-Pathway devotional address he gave when he was president of BYU-Pathway Worldwide titled “From Grit to Grace,” Elder Gilbert described that experience: “In pain and with some embarrassment, I finished, but nearly in last place.”

There’s a lot we can learn about finishing from Elder Gilbert’s experience. He asked:

What does it take to be a finisher, both academically and spiritually?

Believe that the Lord will help you

The first step to being an academic and spiritual finisher is believing that you can!

Each step brings us closer to our goals.

When Nephi and his brothers were sent back to Jerusalem to get the brass plates from Laban, they failed several times. However, Nephi was courageous and believed that, with the Lord’s help, they could accomplish anything He commanded them. Even though Laban stole their possessions and tried to kill them, they ultimately finished their task and rejoiced in their accomplishments.

Just like getting the plates was a difficult task for Nephi, pursuing education is difficult. But, nothing is impossible with the Lord, “For the Lord giveth no commandment unto the children of men save He shall prepare a way for them.” 1 With Him, you are mighty.

Elder Gilbert shared a quote from Elder Carlos A. Godoy, General Authority Seventy, who reminded students that pursuing their education would be really hard work. He promised, “The Lord will ‘help you more than you can help yourself…. Involve the Lord in this process.'”

Keep going even when you fall short

Another way to be a finisher is to get up every time you fall. In his poem “The Race,” D. H. Groberg writes about the experience of a boy who falls numerous times while competing in a race. When the boy crosses the finish line, he feels he has failed.

“But, when the fallen youngster crossed the line, in last place, the crowd gave him a greater cheer for finishing the race. And even though he came in last with head bowed low, unproud, you would have thought he’d won the race, to listen to the crowd…. ‘To me, you won,’ his father said. ‘You rose each time you fell.'”

It doesn’t matter in what place you finish, only that you finish strong. This is expressed beautifully in the words Paul wrote to Timothy: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” 2

When you fall, you can pick yourself up and keep going! Every day might be a battle, and it can be hard to be motivated, but it will be worth it in the end. If you look back now, you might see the progress you’ve already made and be grateful that you didn’t give up, even in the hardest times. Let that motivate you to keep trying!

Remember why you started

Do you remember what made you choose to pursue higher education in the first place? For everyone, those reasons are unique and personal.

Family can be our motivation and support.

When you hang on to a sense of purpose, it will be easier to avoid feelings of doubt and discouragement. Motivation can come from recognizing the ways the Lord has inspired you, reflecting on why you started, and looking forward to what’s ahead.

Even when life is difficult, you can find joy and hope. Christ was able to endure because of the joy that was before Him, and you can endure and finish strong by remembering the joy ahead of you!

“Let us lay aside every weight… and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” 3 When you stay true and endure the race, you can say as Job, “[He] knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined.” 4