You sign up for a race that promises to be fun and short. You are thinking say, a 200m race. So you warm up and get perfectly psyched up for the race. You pick your mark with the other athletes and at the blast of the gun you jet off, Usain Bolt style with Tyson Gay momentum, thinking an Asafa Powell finish. With all the practice and preparation put into the race, you easily put the others at a stretch. “This race belongs to me”, you say to yourself as you near the 200m mark. As you lift your hands in triumph when crossing the finish line, you realize the chants from the crowd are not chants of victory. Rather, they are chants that seem to encourage you athletes to run on.
Because you weren’t told how long you’d be running, you quickly get your game face back on for a 500m race. You seem to have psyched up for the race so well that you easily blow this one too. Then again, as you lift up your hands in triumph to winning a race well run, your competitors are still running on! “They seem to know something I don’t”, you say as you now begin to jog with a 5000m race in mind, knowing that has to be the final distance. You easily put yourself at the front and keep your momentum in all the laps required. But you realize that you’ve been running for about an hour, and no sign has been given to show that you are to run your final lap. “Who organized this? That guy must answer to me,” you say to yourself as you walk off the tracks in anger. You seemed to have fallen for one stupid prank. And to think you paid to register! Unfortunately, as soon as you disqualified yourself, you hear that unmistakable sound of a ringing bell, signaling the final lap. A race well run, momentum well-kept, and a finish that only could have been grand style – but was not. Such is usually the paradox of the lives of some Christians. Brilliant beginners setting the pace for some time, and then quitting the race burned out, tired, or injured.
In Matthew 25:1-13, Jesus likened the Kingdom of heaven unto ten bridesmaids who went forth to meet the bridegroom. Since it was tradition to hold weddings at night-time in those days, these ladies took lamps (remember there was no electricity). For some reason, the bridegroom took longer than expected. The delay turned out to be what showed which of the ten were diligent. The Bible says that five of them who were wise “took oil in their vessels with their lamps”. The other five who were unwise “took their lamps, and took no oil with them.” (Matthew 25:2, 3). When they were told of the imminence of the bridegroom, those without oil went out to get some. When they returned, the bridegroom didn’t grant them entry. He said he didn’t know them and that his bridesmaids were waiting for him when he arrived. That’s that (Matthew 25:12.)
I am looking at a race which is ironically called “The Christian Walk”. At the beginning of this race, everyone bursts forth with enthusiasm and zeal that gets heaven smiling. But along the way, our enthusiasm wanes to the extent that some people put up their own rules for the race (Revelations 2:4.)
The start of any race is important. But the finish is even more crucial. God rewards us for FINISHING a race well run, not just running a race well.
2 Timothy 4:7-8 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me — the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who look forward to his appearing.
So take Paul’s advice from Philippians 3:13-14 and run the race forward. Forget whatever has taken place in the previous “laps” and see each new “lap” as the only one you are running. That way, you’d be able to run the race for however long it takes.
It’s not going to be easy to finish. At the end of his race, Paul said “as for me, my life has been poured out” (2 Timothy 4:6). See, he finished exhausted but then, that earned him the right to say; “I have run the race.” (2 Timothy 4:7). Note, he didn’t say he took part in the race. He finished it. The finish is what matters. So run that you may obtain. Go on.