Finishing the Race

and by persevering produce a crop….. (Luke 8:15).

Years ago a good friend of my convinced me to run the Bix, which is a seven-mile race in the quad city area that draws elite runners from around the world. I wouldn’t consider myself a runner, but being someone who enjoys exercise and a good challenge I decided to give it a go.
The problem is in my training I never ran more than four miles. People also kept warning me to make sure I trained on some hills. I thought, how bad could it be? Therefore, I never ventured out on any steep hills in preparation for the race ahead. Wow, I should have trained a little differently. Little did I know about 50% of the race is at a steep incline where at one point in time I was certain I was going to need a rocket ship to make it up the dastardly high descent.
Towards the end of the race, I encouraged my friend who was running with me to go on ahead and I would finish behind her. There was a point in time when I wanted to give up. The climb had gotten too difficult and the race to challenging. That’s about the time I started to pray. “God, I don’t want to quit running, but this is just so hard, help me to finish this race well.”
Right about the time I was going to press the pause button and start walking I ran past a gospel singing group on the side of the road. It was their words about the Lord that revived my Spirit. It was His rejuvenation through that gospel group that encouraged me to finish the race I was on.
Once I crossed the finish line a sense of pure satisfaction fell upon me. I did it and I didn’t give up. I knew it was the Lord’s love that gave me the strength to keep pressing forward. The next day, a youth group student of mine reminded me how much slower my time was compared to his brother, but I didn’t care, I had finished the race.
Many of us are running, but we are becoming weary. Our constant striving has brought us to the place where we are desperate for the Father’s peace. Without His peace, we’re not sure we’ll make it. We need a reminder that His love is with us. We may not have trained well for the journey, but there is grace for us. Sure, our time might be a little slower than someone else, but the point is that we finish the race not that we stumbled along the way.
I have been quick to make people feel bad for not running well after God. This is a flaw in my own heart. What I needed most to finish that seven-mile race was not someone on the side of the road reminding me of my desires to give up or how slow my time was going to be. I needed someone to believe in me. I needed someone to remind me to not give up.
I am learning how to encourage and give grace to others, to not remind them of their failures or make them feel like one. I’m learning how to be an advocate and cheerleader for others who don’t always get it right. That’s how I would want to be treated if I were struggling. Quite frankly, it is what our hearts need to finish well.
Who can you serve as an advocate for today to remind them to not give up? Who can you pour words of life into today? Who can you encourage to keep persevering with the Lord Jesus? Is it a child, spouse, friend or sibling? When we lay aside negativity and take up a heart of encouragement we become an advocate for them. People who don’t always get it right need to know that they are still loved and valued. Speak truth into their life, yes, but don’t write them off as irredeemable, reminding them of their constant failures.
Lord, help me to be the sweet aroma of Christ to everyone around me. Help me to be fully present in the lives of those around me. Help me to be an excellent encourager. There’s a spirit of negativity sometimes in my heart. It comes from a place in my heart that still needs refinement. Lord Jesus, change me from the inside out. I want to be more like you, Amen!

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