“Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride.” (Ecclesiastes 7:8)
While reading this verse in Ecclesiastes this morning, I couldn’t help but think of Paul’s words in Hebrews 12:1:
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”
Finishing a race is one of the most satisfying feelings — the rush of endorphins, the pride of accomplishment, the relief from pain, the exhaustion from hard work. But actually running the race is taxing, draining and tiring — both physically and mentally.
Some people might tackle long marathons, others might take on a 5K, and others might face a mile-long race. Some runners have years of training, with a solid knowledge and awareness for the minutiae of the race. Others are new to running, and it might take time and hard work to get faster.
If runners are diligent and patient with training, they will improve. But to succeed in these races, the runners need more than just physical training. The runner must possess a certain mindset — a resolve to finish, no matter what. Dedication. Perseverance. Motivation. Purpose.
In the same way, our spiritual race requires this same resilience and patience. We can’t afford to be nonchalant during our preparation or when we’re running our race. Paul recognized this in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27:
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.”
We can’t go into this spiritual race that is life without ensuring our minds are fixed with purpose on the ultimate prize and goal. We need to set our eyes on God, as we trudge up difficult hills, coast along flat terrain, gasp for breath, stumble on roots and rocks, pass by other runners, and hit our stride.
So much of the battle with running takes place in the mind. If you convince yourself you can’t take another breath and need a walking break, your body will follow. If you encourage yourself to take another step and another one, your body will respond. If you tell yourself, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me”, you’ll find your resolve. If you focus on the finish line, you’ll reach it.
It might not be a smooth journey and we might not look pretty at the end, but we’ll know that we made it.
“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 3:13-14)
But it would be silly to think we could do finish this race on our own — through our own strength and resolve. Yes, so much of our journey depends on what we think, how we respond, and what we run toward. But we don’t need to rely on our strength alone, because we have the best coach and running buddy a runner could have — God.
The Lord gives power to those who are tired and worn out; He offers strength to the weak. Even youths will become exhausted, and young men will fall and give up. But those who wait on the Lord will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:29-31)
God runs this race with us. He supports us when we think we can’t move. He provides hope when we’re facing an intimidating hill. He offers refreshing water when we need a drink. He encourages, advises and cheers us on. With Him, we can finish the race.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me — the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of His return.” (2 Timothy 4:7)