Strong to the Finish
Strong to the Finish
January 14, 2007
Focus: God equips us not only to run the race, but also to finish it well.
One of the defining factors of great leaders is finishing strong and that is equally true of the Christian life. God sets a unique course for each of his children. We must begin the race, keep running (even when things look grim), overcome obstacles, and keep our sights set on God, who helps us to the finish line—and is waiting to comfort us. Like Paul we should be able to say at the end of our journey, “I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.” As Christians, we have a major advantage: God is our trainer and coach. You sense the incredible relief in his spirit as he says, “I have fought the good fight. 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.”
How a life or a relationship ends is absolutely crucial to everything that goes before it, so I want to talk to you this morning about finishing the race.
In Hebrews 12:1-2 it says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders.” “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
You have to run the race marked out for you whether on the race track or in the Christian life. God has gone before you. He knows your end from your beginning. He knows all the days of your life. In his great foreknowledge, he has gone ahead of you and planted these flags ahead of you. And the Scripture says, “Run with perseverance the race marked out for you.”
What is he saying to us? Simply this, we’ve got to keep running. If you’re going to finish, you’ve got to keep running until you reach the finish line. God didn’t just send you to start this race. He didn’t just send you to begin a noble task or a noble relationship. God sent you both to start and to finish.
To do so, you’ve got to get up when you fall. Many of you saw the movie Chariots of Fire back about twenty years ago. It was the true story of Eric Liddell, a man who ran for Scotland, then went on to become a missionary. You may recall that he refused to run on the Sabbath, forfeiting some of the awards he probably would have won in the 1924 Olympics.
Well, there was another scene in that movie that may have appeared like Hollywood fiction, but it was also true. One year before the pivotal event in the movie, Eric Liddell ran in a meet between England, Ireland and Scotland. He ran the 100-, 220-, and 440-yard events.
In the 440, he got off to a bad start. When that gun sounded, there was a lot of shoving to get in front to the inside lane, the advantageous position.
Liddell tangled feet with J. J. Gillies of England and tumbled to the track. He sat there dazed for a moment, not knowing whether he could get up, when the official screamed, “Get up and run!”
He jumped to his feet and took off after the pack, which was now a full twenty yards ahead of him. In a quarter mile, that’s a big distance to try to make up. In his unorthodox style of running he took off after the pack. He pulled into fourth place ten yards behind the leader, J. J. Gillies.
With forty yards to go, he pulled into third place, then second. Right at the tape he passed Gillies, stuck his chest out, won the race, and collapsed to the track in total exhaustion. Medical personnel had to assist him off the track that day.
An article appearing the next day in The Scotsman newspaper said, “The circumstances in which Liddell won the race made it a performance bordering on the miraculous. Veterans whose memories take them back thirty-five years and in some cases longer in the history of athletics were unanimous in the opinion that Liddell’s win in the quarter mile was the greatest track performance they had ever seen.” He finished well!
There’s something glorious about getting up off the track after you’ve been knocked down and running again. Win or lose, you don’t stay down.
Some of you have been knocked down. Maybe Satan has tripped you up. Perhaps you have made some foolish decisions. Perhaps other people have done you wrong. You’re depressed. At times like this, you just feel like sitting on the track. But the only real shame is to stay down on the track.
God’s word to you is, “Get up and run!” Forget those who have wronged you. Forget what lies behind and run for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. You still have a race ahead of you.
Philippians 1:6 doesn’t say, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day you fail and flop on the track.” It says, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.”
So, keep remembering this, God is drawing us to the finish line.
I keep putting one foot in front of another, but it’s up to God to get me to that finish line. Hebrews 12:2 says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” He is the one who will get you to the finish line.
God, our heavenly Father, runs to the side of his son or daughter who says, “I’m finishing. I don’t care how much it hurts. I don’t care if I’m hanging on a cross. I’m finishing well.” God’s goal for each one of us is that we finish like Paul.
My prayer for you is that one day, like the apostle Paul, you will be able to stand before Jesus and say these words, “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.”