Finish Strong

“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 eagerly look forward to his appearing.”

2 Timothy 4:7–8

I grew up in an athletic home. My dad was a very accomplished athlete and when his playing days were over he became a coach and an official and then a father. Needless to say I benefited from decades of my dad’s playing and coaching experience. As someone who ran track and was a track official, the starter. He was the one who shot the gun off to begin every race at the track meet so it’s safe to say he saw a lot of races and many where the best runner didn’t win. My dad told me when the best runner failed to win the vast majority time it was due to finishing poorly. My dad taught me at a very young age in track what the apostle Paul is teaching believers in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, “Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.” What the apostle Paul is telling us here is that the key to winning is finishing well. Trust me, starting well is important but the truth is, more races are lost because the runner failed to finish well.

In the 6th grade I was a pretty good runner and in the summer between the 6th and 7th grade I ran the 440 yard dash in 1 minute and I could run the 880 in just a few seconds over 2 minutes. Most races I ran in I won by a large margin when I was competing against kids my own age but in the “open” track meets or “all comers” as they were called back then I came in second and third a lot. I remember one race where I was trying to catch a high school freshman who was a few steps in front of me, a few inches taller than me and a few years older than me. I did catch him right at the finish line and yet He won not by a step but by a chest. A chest? He leaned into the tape a won even though on the very next step I was in front of him. Upset that I lost when I thought I had won my dad took me aside and he taught me a very valuable lesson that day I never forgot. He said “when you reach the finish line act as if you are still 10 yards away and explode through the tape.” In other words his message to me was “finish strong.” That’s Jesus message to us too!

I think about that moment with my dad every time I read Paul’s letter in 1 Corinthians 9 and the older I get the more I think about fishing strong in my own spiritual journey. The Bible refers to our relationship with Jesus like a spiritual race. Jesus is both the reward for running our race well, and He is the rewarder or the judge who is watching our lives to make sure we stay in our own lane and run according to the rules. I like the track analogy Paul uses because track is one sport where you don’t compete against your opponents but rather you compete with them. You run along side in the same direction racing for the same destination, and the same prize!    

In 1968 at the Summer Olympics in Mexico City at 7:00 p.m. long after all the other contestants in the Marathon (26.2 miles) had finished the race John Stephen Akwari from Tanzania came hobbling into the stadium towards the finish line battered, bandaged and bruised from a terrible fall he took early in the race. As he entered the stadium the crowd jumped to their feet and cheered him on as he finished. He might have come in dead last and long after the other competitors had finished but he received a hero’s welcome for the simple fact, he did not quit and he finished well.

During the interview after the race someone asked him why he didn’t just drop out and quit? He said, “My country did not send 7,000 miles to start a race. They sent 7,000 miles to finish a race.” That is powerful. Paul was telling the Corinthian church that no matter what hardships he faced, no matter how much pain he would have to endure he was determined to finish his race well, to run all the way through the finish line and into the arms of the One who loved him and gave himself for Paul and for that fact, for me and you too!

Run hard in your journey of faith knowing it’s worth it because just over the finish line the prize awaits, Jesus, He is our great reward. Know this today too, I know life is hard and at times we all do feel like quitting but don’t. Jesus is cheering for you and I am cheering for you too! Finish Strong!

“But as for you, be strong and courageous, for your work will be rewarded.”

2 Chronicles 15:7


Michael Osthimer





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