Finish the Race Strong
“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.”
1 Corinthians 9:24-27(NLT)
I will be the first to admit that I am no runner and a mediocre athlete at best. The closest I have come to running a race was a competition against friends from church on the local high school track field and I am pretty sure I finished last. However, the analogy that Paul gives in 1 Corinthians 9 isn’t complicated to get. In my own paraphrase; ‘Hey you, life is a race, and you better be in it. The point of a race is to finish it and win! So give it everything you got! Make your life count, every moment of every day. You don’t have to keep failing, you can, through the power of the Holy-Spirit, live a disciplined life. Look around, there are many who have finished ahead of you, it is possible, and you can do it!’
This last weekend I was able to attend the Men’s Retreat with a great group of men from Clear Creek and The Church on the Mountain. The theme of the weekend was Finish Strong. The speaker had been an athlete and had competed in various track events and gave some great analogies to tie in scripture with personal examples. But that wasn’t what stood out to me at the retreat. To be honest, it wasn’t even the running the race part that stuck with me. It was something the speaker brought up the 2nd day and that is what has been on my heart and mind this week.
The speaker began talking through what happens in a relay race. Our life as Christians is similar to relay runners. We run hard and to make a perfect transition, we approach the transition box, match speed for the handoff, and seamlessly pass the baton. This was a beautiful picture for many reasons. I had the honor of growing up in a family that loves the Lord and displayed that as part of their life. From a young age, my dad included me at Men’s retreats at the very camp I was at over the weekend. As I sat with my dad and two uncles this weekend I was thankful for the legacy that has been passed on to me. Not only do I have a father who has been an example of a runner in the race, there were numerous men in the room who mentored me and who have demonstrated how to be successful in the race of life. Now years later, I have the privilege of exploring God’s calling in my life at Clear Creek and have been able to be active in the men’s ministry here. You see, what I experienced that day was a picture of the big C Church, working in an incredible way. I discovered that God had given me a father who loved the Lord and showed that to me, along with other brothers in Christ who mentored and prayed for me, so that someday, I could begin doing the same for the next generation.
As a young man, the process of passing the baton had begun. And while some may disagree, I feel like I am in the transition box taking the baton and running with it now, beginning the next leg of the race. As a Christian man, a newer husband and father, the challenge to run strong couldn’t be more real. Each day I am called to live for Christ and die to my selfish ways. Each day there are “shortcuts” that can take me of course. Each day is a day that I have to place my eyes on the finish line and run hard. Mark 8:34 says “Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.”
What I keep finding assurance in is this; that life is going to be hard. Paul calls it a race and the Apostle Mark likens it to carrying a cross. Finishing strong isn’t about reaching the finish line with sea shells in my hand as an offering to God from my strolls along the sandy beaches. (Read John Piper for more on that). Finishing strong is about aligning our self with the Word of God, finding our direction from His teaching, and getting faithful athletes along the way to train us and keep us going the right direction. Finishing strong is about passing on the baton from generation to generation and I am excited to keep that going.
Written by Josh Guisinger