We have two big events going on in our household these days. My life, in many ways, is starting to wind down as I will be retiring from pastoring next month. On the other hand, the lives of my children are winding up as they recently finished their education and training and are preparing to move into the next stage of their lives. As my race is getting closer to the finish line, theirs is just leaving the starting line.
As a lifelong runner, I know a little about running and races. For instance, the start and the finish are particularly important times. They have great potential for gain but also for disaster. They call for particular alertness. A bad start can undermine the whole race, while a poor finish can negate the hard work that has come before it. It’s important to start strong, run a consistent race, then finish strong at the end. The same is true of living the Christian life.
For those who are at the start of their Christian race, there are some particular challenges to be alert to. Stumbling, in a race of in life, often happens. Falling isn’t the worse thing, but staying down is. It may be a slight stumble, or perhaps someone else has knocked you off course, or even a terrible crash you yourself are responsible for. Get up and keep moving as soon as you can. Confess your sin (1 John 1:9) and get moving again. Mark as a young man quit on the first missionary journey with Paul, but years later Paul writes about how valuable he has become to the ministry. Peter, at his start, denied the Lord three times, but went on to be one of the greatest leaders in the church. Moses killed an Egyptian shortly after beginning to serve the Lord, but later led the Jews out of Egypt.
The other obstacle for starting well is distractions. In running and life, one must keep their eyes on the goal (Christlikeness for the Christian). Temptation, sin, worldly pleasures, even good things that take too great a role in life distract from following Jesus. Keep your eyes always and only on Him (Luke 13:32; 2 Corinthians 5:9; Philippians 3:9-12,14; Matthew 6:33).
For those of us coming toward the end of our race, we want to make sure we finish well (Philippians 1:6; 2 Timothy 4:7-8; Acts 20:24; 1 Corinthians 9:24). A danger we must be aware of is looking to the past and let some failure, hurt or sin in the past interfere with our running a strong race now. Forget what is in the past and only look ahead (Philippians 3:13-14).
The other potential danger is to grow weary, get tired and start to coast (Galatians 6:9; Hebrews 12:3). Many a good race has been hurt by the runner not giving his all to the very end. David backed off his responsibility to lead his men and stayed home where he saw Bathsheba and sinner with her, marring his race. The key to finishing strong is to start strong and persevere all the way through to the finish line (2 Timothy 4:7-8). That means being consistent day in and day out in prayer and personal devotions, Bible study, fellowship with other Christians and times of personal and corporate worship. Make sure there are not unconfessed sins and you are growing closer to and more like Jesus at all times.
A story that has shaped my personal value system from when I was very young is the story of the tortoise and the hare. The importance of keeping moving ahead at all times is key (Hebrews 12:1-2). Pray, worship, study, fellowship, confess, forgive, witness, love and enjoy – every day, for the rest of your life! (May 23, 2016 Doylestown, PA)
Galatians 6:9 Let us know become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap; if we do not give up.
Hebrews 12:1-2 Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.
Philippians 1:6 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it onto completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Where are you in your life race – near the start, in the middle or towards the end? How are you doing? How is your perseverance?
Are you more like the tortoise or the hare? Whichever you are, pray for perseverance.