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On faith: Finish well

Rev. Joseph Whiting,

Grace Baptist Church, Two Harbors

On February 23 at 5:30 a.m., I was in Florida standing with a crowd of people along a race course, cowbell in hand, in front of Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World. The castle rose majestically behind me in the pre-dawn darkness, bathed in purple lighting. Five miles away, my wife was standing in a crowd of 18,000 people anxiously awaiting the starting gun for the Princess Half Marathon. At that same moment, 1,700 miles away, a dear friend, Pastor Bob Munson, slipped away from this life after a difficult battle with cancer. As my wife was starting her race, Pastor Bob was finishing his. At 83 years of age, he completed his course and crossed the finish line.

Starting lines are exciting. Anything seems possible. The course has been marked out, aid stations are in place, and the finish line is waiting. But finish lines are more exciting than starting lines. Starting lines are about potential. Finish lines are about results. There we are cheered, evaluated, and even judged. Starting something is good. Finishing something is better. The parallel between our Christian life and a footrace is found in several passages of Scripture. We learn important lessons about our brief life here on planet earth.

First, God will reward those who place their hope in Him. “But those who hope in the LORD…will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31). Our hope must be in God’s power, not our own. It is only through what Christ accomplished at Calvary that we can be right with God. We are alive in Him. Thus we proclaim, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

Second, God expects us to make an effort. “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it” (1 Corinthians 9:24). Our focus in life is not to be on the starting line, but on the finish. A prize awaits all those who pursue God and His righteousness with all their might.

Third, God wants us to abandon sinful behavior and keep our eyes on Jesus. “Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2-3 ). Just as too much weight can slow down a runner, so sinful behavior impedes our progress with God. Sinful behavior never helps anyone; it only destroys.

Fourth, God wants our focus to be on how we finish, not on how we started. “I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize” (Philippians 3:13). To his last breath, the Apostle Paul was in pursuit of God. He didn’t think he had done enough. He continued pressing on toward the finish.

Finally, God expects obedience. “You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?” (Galatians 5:7). As the songwriter said, “Obedience is the very best way to show that you believe.” When our heart’s desire is to please God in every area of our lives, we run well.

While I’ll miss Pastor Bob, I’m thrilled to have watched him finish his race. He ran well, and I’m cheering for him today! I hope that someday we too will finish our race well. So keep up the pace. Keep your eyes on the Lord. Keep running.

Rev. Joseph Whiting is the pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Two Harbors.