Run the Race to Finish the Race!

17 Mar

Run the race to finish the race. It’s not about finishing the race first. Think about how much excitement and joy people show as they watch someone crawling across the finish line just to finish the race, whether due to an injury, handicap, or other factor. Most people really admire the racers will and determination to just finish the race. How many of you can name a winner of the New York marathon, or any marathon for that matter? But how many of you can remember some story of someone finishing in a wheelchair, or some other major limitation? To have run the race with integrity and honor and the will to complete it, will generally leave a more lasting impression.

I recently had a friend of mine graduate to the presence of the Lord. Laura had been fighting cancer for several months. She was in her mid fifties or so and had just accepted the Lord a few years ago. Her and her husband Chuck were very involved in our church and loved Jesus with all their hearts. She even went to help one year in the Medical Clinic we built in Burundi Africa a couple years ago. She was active in many different areas of giving her time and resources at the church. She also was very well thought of at her work where she let the love of Jesus motivate her to love those she worked for. Then one day she had some severe pain in her abdomen and ended up going to the emergency room to see what was wrong. They quickly discovered she had cancer throughout her body. The Doctors didn’t paint a very bright picture.

Now, I think a very common and understandable question is, “She loved God so much, why did God allow this to happen?” This question has been asked multiplied millions of times I’m sure. I am not going to try to answer that question here. I believe that without question, and with great reason, God’s ways are not my ways. He knows better than I what happens and why. I do believe that Laura’s life and how she dealt with the diagnosis of cancer may show us one reason. She didn’t “Win the race” as we would perceive it. She didn’t live until a ripe old age. She didn’t retire at a comfortable age and live the relaxed life of an American retiree. She didn’t have a huge home and a million dollar plus retirement account. But she ran the race keeping her eyes on the prize. I will always remember how she talked to people when talking about her cancer. She always maintained her faith in the Lord. She always communicated her love for Jesus and her confidence in Jesus love for her.

She knew she may die, yet her attitude reflected what scripture tells us about death in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” I like how the Message paraphrase puts it, “So how am I to respond? I’ve decided that I really don’t care about their motives, whether mixed, bad, or indifferent. Every time one of them opens his mouth, Christ is proclaimed, so I just cheer them on! And I’m going to keep that celebration going because I know how it’s going to turn out. Through your faithful prayers and the generous response of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, everything he wants to do in and through me will be done. I can hardly wait to continue on my course. I don’t expect to be embarrassed in the least. On the contrary, everything happening to me in this jail only serves to make Christ more accurately known, regardless of whether I live or die. They didn’t shut me up; they gave me a pulpit! Alive, I’m Christ’s messenger; dead, I’m his bounty. Life versus even more life! I can’t lose.” Now read this thinking of her situation knowing that she may in fact die from this disease. To Laura the diagnosis didn’t matter, sure she would love to have lived a long life with her wonderful husband. But she knew that being with the Lord was even better. She also knew that how she communicated that could greatly impact the people around her. How is God glorified when a christian dies? It’s about how they honor the truth that it isn’t all about them, it’s about Jesus and what He has done for them, and us.

Have you ever heard of Dick and Rick Hoyt? Rick is a handicapped young man that his father, Dick, pushes around in a wheelchair running marathons. http://www.teamhoyt.com/

I defy anyone to check out their story and not be touched with the power of deep love this father and son share. Do they win the race? nope. But what impresses people is how they run the race. The father loves his son so much he is willing to put forth super human effort to see that his son can achieve a dream that healthy people struggle with. It’s about how they run the race. I remember the last season of “America’s Got Talent” and an act that was a family where the mother had been diagnosed with cancer and the son and daughter had a singing act. They showed a brief account of their story and the kids sang their song. When they finished, the crowd and judges were silent in awe. Piers, the brash British judge stated, ” I have never been moved like this before.” It was a very touching moment. They didn’t win, but their story had a huge impact on people.

How we run the race has much more meaning than whether we win the race. Run the race to finish the race. In the book, “The Book of Virtues” by William Bennett, there is a poem that talks about this called “You Mustn’t Quit”

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debt is high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When the care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest! if you must–but never quit.

Life is queer, with its twists and turns,
As everyone of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won if he’d stuck it out,
Stick to your task, though the pace seems slow–
You may succeed with one more blow.

Success is failure turned inside out,
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,

It may be near when it seems afar;
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit,
It’s when things seem worse that YOU MUSTN’T QUIT!

What does the Bible say about quitting?

1Co 15:58 Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.
2Th 3:13 And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right.
Heb 12:3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Ro 2:7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honour and immortality, he will give eternal life.
1Pe 2:15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.
1Pe 3:17 It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
1Pe 4:19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
Isa 40:30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
Isa 40:31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Zep 3:16 On that day they will say to Jerusalem, “Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands hang limp.
Mt 24:13 but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.
Lu 18:1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.
2Co 4:1 Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.
2Co 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
Heb 3:6 But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.

It’s isn’t about winning the race. We don’t have to be the best that has ever been at whatever we do. We must strive to be the best we can, but don’t compare your results or position in the race to anybody else, or to your imagined standards. We have an audience of One. Please Him and run the race to finish the race.

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2 Responses to “Run the Race to Finish the Race!”

  1. Jacque March 19, 2010 at 9:34 AM #

    If we could but peer into the lens of life for a few seconds we will find that so much of what is happening in society, to mankind, can easily take a representative form of the “spin cycle” in the washer [of life]. Perhaps, just like the clothes that cannot escape the entire “process” so we too should run our race. Yeah, we can pause, we can stop, and even quit, but, mostly today, recognizing that it is perhaps more rewarding to take the hopeful choice, we run the race to the finish line. I agree, it is not about winning, but to keep running and finishing well. I feel a great sense of community because there are so many on that [running] stretch and the company is encouraging, making the race quite bearable…and even hilarious at times!

  2. Mom and Dad March 20, 2010 at 12:19 PM #

    Mike….we… (Mom and Dad)are very proud of you and we love your inspirational commentary. You make us proud parents,and we know that as you grow as a parent yourself, you will find the pride and happiness in your son, as we have.

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