Finish the Race

Mar 17, 2024 551

Finish the Race

In the 10,000m men’s finals at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, unforgettable and dramatic scenes marked the end of the race. Australian Patrick Tiernan had kept up with the favourites for almost the entirety of the 27-minute race, but just 50 metres away from the finish line, he dramatically collapsed. 

TV commentator Bruce McAvaney said at the time, “You can see Pat, he is absolutely done and dusted. He is running on heart only here… He has absolutely collapsed with 50m to go. He picks himself up. He is staggering here.”

Tiernan crossed the line based on courage and determination alone. And incredibly, despite his collapse, Tiernan recorded his best time for that track and field season. He was so exhausted that he needed a wheelchair to get off the track.

Ethiopian Selemon Barega claimed gold that day, but Tiernan’s run will not be forgotten. He was determined to go all the way.

The Bible likens our lives to a race.

There are often many things in life that we start but we don’t finish. Depending on what kind of a person you are, you may be a better “finisher” than others. Some people may not be as organised as they need to be, or they may be more easily discouraged from pursuing a goal. But if there is one thing above all that we should make sure we finish well, that is our life of faith upon this earth.

The Bible likens our lives to a race. The reason is because it requires preparation and discipline, it takes effort, and because there is a prize at the end. I really didn’t used to like this idea of my life as a race, because on the one hand, I was never much good at athletics, and on the other hand, because it made it seem as if there were winners and losers. The winners were the ones who lived the best and holiest lives, and those who didn’t quite make the mark were the losers.

It is the Spirit of God who ensures that we stay on track in life and that we cross the finish line.

Now I know that both of my concerns were unfounded. Firstly, even though I might not be any good at physical athletics, I can still love Jesus, and that’s all it takes to win. And secondly, I have also learnt that this is a race in which everyone can be a winner. Even if you are the weakest, most elderly, or the poorest person in this world, you can win the race of faith. Unlike earthly athletes, you don’t have to be fast and you don’t need to be strong. As the Bible says,

The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong… (Eccl. 9:11).

What, then, do you need to run the race of life? God says to us:

‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty (Zech. 4:6).

It is the Spirit of God who ensures that we stay on track in life and that we cross the finish line.

How is it that everyone can win? It’s because the important thing isn’t to reach the goal first, but to be on track. That’s why the apostle Paul wrote, 

I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:14).

The goal is eternity.

The most important thing isn’t to reach the goal, but to always be pursuing it. If you are running towards the goal, you will always reach it. Why? Because the goal is eternity. 

Although we don’t like to talk about dying, death means the end of our time in this life. It represents the finish line of the race of faith. In the life to come, there will be no sin, no suffering, and no pain. Paul knew that his time on earth was coming to an end. As he faced his own death, he wrote:

I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing (2 Tim. 4:7–8).

Because of Jesus, if you trust in him, you can say the same thing as Paul did. That can be true for you at whatever stage of life you may be in. The reality is that Jesus ran the race for you and won the prize of eternal life for you, and now he simply offers to credit it to your account if you will accept it. Whatever race we run in this life is simply a reflection of what he has already done and won. That’s why all those who have accepted Jesus as their Saviour are always “more than conquerors through him who loved us” Rom. 8:37.

Eliezer Gonzalez

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