Monday, June 6, 2016

Finish the Race You've Begun

John Stephen Akhwari represented Tanzania in the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.  Though a good runner, Akhwari's chances of winning the race were demolished when he realized that he had not trained for such a high altitude.  Within moments of running, his muscles began to cramp, leading to significant discomfort and slowing his pace.  Still, Akhwari pressed on.

Not even halfway through the marathon, Akhwari became tangled in a group of runners who were trying to gain ground on one another.  In the melee, he was knocked to the ground, dislocating both his knee and shoulder.  Onlookers were confident that they had seen the last step of Akhwari, at least for this particular race.  But after receiving medical attention, the injured athlete rejoined the runners and continued his race as he hobbled down the track.

Of the 75 starting participants, Akhwari was the last of the 57 who crossed the finish line.  His completion was nearly an hour after that of the winner, and most of the crowd had departed.  Still, those who remained cheered him on as he persevered through his pain and finished the race.  When the news crews heard that the last runner was about to cross the finish line, they hurried to interview him and asked him why in the world he kept running when he was injured so severely.  His response was this:  "My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race; they sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race."  Though he finished in last place, Akhwari is regarded as a hero with superhuman spirit and has received numerous honors for his dedication to the race.

Dear friends, I remind you that God has not placed us here to start the race but to finish it.  Yes, sometimes the running can be painful--even excruciating, and there are likely to be stumbles and injuries along the way.  But God wants us to be like Akhwari.  He longs for us to be determined to finish, no matter the cost.  He will give us the strength to complete the race as long as we have the willingness and dedication to see it through.  It's not about who wins; it's about who finishes.  Let's not be like the 18 runners who quit the 1968 Marathon before crossing the finish line.  Let's keep going, allowing God to provide the strength and motivation, so that when we complete the race, we can give Him all the glory.

Perhaps you've stumbled recently, and you're having trouble getting back on your feet.  Call out to Jesus.  He'll lift you up.  Or maybe you've been injured by someone or something, and you just don't feel like going on.  Turn to Jesus.  He'll shower you with grace and comfort.  Or maybe you're just at a place where it seems too difficult.  You're tired.  You're weary.  And you're struggling to put one foot in front of the other.  Lean on Jesus.  He'll carry you when you can't run.  He is determined to get you across that finish line.  He won't give up on you.  Don't give up on Him.  Keep moving!  Finish the race you've begun.

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: - II Timothy 4:7

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