Finish the race, keep the faith

Racing has been a sport for a long time, whether foot races, animals, or vehicles drawn by animals, motorized vehicles, or aircraft. Distance and speed are factors in races, along with other conditions.

Snow, or lack of it, has been a factor for races in Alaska. Premier sled dog races, both distance and sprint, have been canceled due to light snow conditions. Even the Iditarod is being changed by these conditions.

The Christian faith has been likened to a race. “Let us run with patience the race that is set before us,” admonished the writer in Hebrews 12:1. Conditions for the runner in this race are advised, “Lay aside every weight, and the sin that doth so easily beset us.” The Common English Bible translates this verse, “Let’s throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up.” Runners in a race are careful to choose gear that is light and not cumbersome.

Moreover, good instruction is included in that passage, “fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer and perfecter,” (Hebrews 12:2, CEB). Looking to the Lord Jesus for direction, comfort, encouragement, and strength to run the race is helpful.

Distance running, whether the strenuous run up Mt. Marathon or a standard marathon of 26 miles, 385 yards requires amazing stamina and endurance. Even half marathons or shorter distances are challenging. Yet an indigenous tribe in Mexico runs races much farther than that.

The Tarahumara Indians of Mexico are amazing in that they run races that are twice as long as a marathon or more. One of their races is 60 miles on trails in the Copper Canyon area of Mexico. They run those distances regularly and without special gear.

King Solomon, in his book Ecclesiastes, made statements that seem contradictory to racing and other endeavors. “The race is not to the swift,” he said in chapter 9, verse 11. He added several other qualifying observations, and then ended by saying, “time and chance happen to them all.” The opportunity of a lifetime needs to be taken in the lifetime of that opportunity.

Paul the apostle used athletic effort to describe his commitment to faith. His goal was not a corruptible crown, but an incorruptible. “I therefore so run, not as uncertainly,” he said. He encouraged others, “So run, that ye may obtain.” He finished the chapter by referring to self-control as a condition of faith (See 1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

An Olympic runner from Tanzania named John Akhwari ran the marathon in Mexico City. He fell and was injured but continued to run. Long after the winner crossed the finish line, Akhwari limped into the stadium. When a reporter asked why he didn’t quit, he replied, “My country didn’t send me to start the race. They sent me to finish it.”

Paul wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” I pray that will be my testimony and yours. The start is simple yet exhilarating (See Acts 2:38) and at the finish awaits a “crown of righteousness” which Paul saw as incorruptible. Keep running the race.

Mitch Glover is pastor of the Sterling Pentecostal Church located on Swanson River Road and Entrada. Services on Sunday include Bible classes for all ages at 10:00 a.m. and worship at 11:00 a.m. Thursday Bible study is at 7:00 p.m. (sterlingpentecostalchurch.com)

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