Last Sunday I was involved in the White Rock Marathon. For 26.2 miles I plodded along the course laid out from west side of downtown Dallas, around White Rock Lake and back. I have to tell you that is not easy being a spectator at a marathon! All of that driving from point to point to get a glimpse of the runners. Whew! At this point I am happy that I am out of hitting range from our son Scott and his lovely bride Caroline who actually ran and finished their first marathon on Sunday.
Joni and I had the privilege of being at various cheering points to encourage them and take some pictures. I was inspired by their commitment to this race and their nearly year long preparation for this single event. Lots of getting up at 5 AM for training runs and heading out on weekend mornings for very long runs. All of that dedication paid off.
We waited at the finish line near the Dallas Maverick’s home at American Airlines Center. I watched the runners as they completed this grueling test. Some ran with a pained expression that indicated they just wanted to cross the line. But the most typical reaction was heartwarming and thought provoking. It was repeated over and over. The runners would be plodding along with looks of tiredness and even pain etched on their face. And then they would look up and see the gigantic FINISH banner and a smile would spread across their face. A look of relief and joy replaced the exhausted and pained expression. They had made it to the finish.
Four different times Paul used a running metaphor to describe the Christian journey. It made a lot of sense as I watched the runners on Sunday. In his letter to the Corinth Church Paul talked about training and goals.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. (I Corinthians 9, NIV)
Scott and Caroline’s prize was a medal that symbolized that they finished the race. Paul talks about finishing in a race where our prize is eternal. I thought about how the finish line of life for Christians should be like those runners at the White Rock Marathon. All of the training, perseverance and pain will be worth it as we view the finish line of eternity with Christ. I don’t think that some (or even most) Christians really understand the promise of heaven. Randy Alcorn has written an excellent book on the topic that might help get you fired up about finishing the race strong. I talked to Scott afterwards and asked him how he had held up. His reply was interesting. He told me that he felt good about his cardiovascular but noted that at mile 20 “everything started to hurt”. But he kept going. He knew the pain was part of the process. Paul talks about how obstacles keep us from finishing our Christian race well.
You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom. (Galatians 5, NLT)
At times we all hit “mile 20” in our journey with Jesus. That point where it feels like everything hurts. But you keep going. It is part of the process. Keep trusting God and stay faithful. At some point all of us will look up and see that the finish banner is very near.
My prayer is that a big smile will cross my face and joy will fill my soul. I want more than anything to echo the words of Paul.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. (2 Timothy 4, NLT)