One of the most important words in the English language is the word “begin.” It’s also probably one of the most flippantly used words in the English language. How many things have we begun only to never finish? How many things have we intended to begin only to never even start? Our lives are filled with beginnings that have no endings. But that stark reality doesn’t take from the word “begin” its place of importance in both our vocabularies and in our lives.
We’ve all heard lessons where the speaker implores us to “finish” strong in our walk with the Lord; that it’s not about how we begin but rather how we end. And in many ways, that is true. But it’s also true that those who begin well have a much better chance of finishing well. The Olympic sprinter who stumbles out of the gate rarely receives a medal.
134 times in the Bible we read the word “begin” or one of its variances. One of the most famous verses in the Bible, Genesis 1:1, tells us that, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The Psalmist wrote, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Ps 111:10) John wrote that, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (Jn 1:1)
But of all of the uses of the word “begin” that are found in the Bible, my favorite is an instance where the word actually isn’t even used at all. At least, not in a way in which we realize.
In the English Standard Version, Matthew 1:1 reads, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” The word translated “genealogy” is the Greek word geneseos, which can be translated as origin, or… beginning. In fact, the Greek word geneseos is where the name of the first book of the Bible – Genesis – gets its name, particularly from Genesis 1:1, which we have already referenced.
And “Genesis” is certainly an appropriate title for a book which tells of beginnings – of the earth, of man, of sin, and of God’s plan for restoration. And in that vein, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to think of Matthew 1:1 as introducing a new beginning, in Jesus Christ. Matthew 1:1, very much so, provides for us, then, a “book of beginnings.” A book which can be – and is to be – read by all who cross its path.
Just a few days ago, we turned the page on the calendar and celebrated a new beginning – New Year’s Day. And this holiday is a day for reflection and anticipation, but especially for being a convenient time to “begin” anew. We make resolutions and commitments, most of which we will begin but never finish and some of which we will never even begin at all.
But what is certain, is that, whether we realize it or not, we are writing our own book. And all who cross our path will read it. They will read of our successes and failures, and of how we respond to each. They will read of our anger or of our happiness. They will read of our insecurities or of our assurance. They will read of our attitudes when we are away from the Lord’s people, whether in private or in public.
And if honest, most of us don’t like the book we’ve been writing in the past. Sure, each successive draft might be an improvement over the last, but we’re all still a long way from the bestseller we see in our minds. And so we begin again anew, with blank pages.
And that’s the most wonderful part of a time of year like this, that we have a chance to write our very own book of new beginnings. We can have our very own Genesis, and our very own story. And right now, we don’t know how that story will end. We know how we hope it will end, of how the story must progress to end in that way. But we can know how it will begin.
Begin well. Begin well, and increase the odds of finishing well – and receiving your medal.