A Faithful Finish
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I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.—2 Timothy 4:71
The other night, I dreamed that crowds of people of all different shapes and sizes ran up a road to get to the top. But the black paved road seemed like a 90-degree wall. If you didn’t hit it running with full momentum, you would get stuck. As I began to tackle this obstacle, people ahead of me slowed down or stopped, leaving me holding on to this road for dear life.
People began passing me. I tried to climb, but I couldn’t. So, I did the only thing I knew to do. I cried out, “I need help!”
Like an angel, a young man appeared and reached over the edge for my hand. He pulled me up and through a large cutout in a white brick wall. He continued to lie on his stomach through that cutout to help more people up.
Full of gratitude, I grabbed hold of his feet to give him extra stability as he served. Then he relaxed and sat up. The people after me didn’t need his help like I needed his help. They effortlessly climbed this steep wall of a road and through the white brick hole without assistance.
That’s when I felt it. Shame. Insecurity. Worthlessness. Was it just me? Was I the only one who wasn’t strong enough? Was I the only one who needed help accomplishing what everyone else could do on their own?
At that moment, God reminded me to run my own race. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing or how you stack up to others. It’s OK to need help. All that matters is you made it!
We need to hold on to the goal of 2 Timothy 4:7: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.” That’s it! It doesn’t matter what place we finish. It doesn’t matter if someone has to hold us up as we limp across the finish line. We just need to finish and remain faithful.
Isn’t it awesome God designed the members of the body of Christ to help one another? As we fight the good fight in a world filled with comparisons and roadblocks, stalled momentum and dangerous cliffs, we can’t be afraid to ask for help when we need it and offer support to others who are struggling.
Ultimately, God wants all of His children to be with Him in eternity. He sent Jesus to do the work we could never do. And God gave believers the Holy Spirit, our great Helper, to guide us and strengthen us along the way. God has provided everything we need to finish our faith race well.—Shala W. Graham2
As I strolled along the river, swans and other birds added to the beauty of a sunny Sunday afternoon that was wasted on me. The past few years had been a nightmare. Alcoholism was taking its toll. Guilt, negativity, and discouragement hung over me like dark clouds. I was separated from my wife and had lost my job. I had also lost the respect of all my friends and coworkers. I felt like a worthless failure.
A few joggers passed me up. A group of young people raced by on bicycles. I hardly noticed them either, as my mind relived the events of the past few years, trying to figure out where I had taken the wrong turn that had led me to this awful place.
Then a young voice called out. “Don’t give up! Keep going! Don’t give up!” The words rang in my ears.
I turned to see a boy of about seven, running my way. As he passed, he yelled again over his shoulder to his younger sister, probably five, who seemed about to give up in what was apparently a race between them.
“Don’t stop now! You have to get to the finish line!”
It reminded me of a scene from the film Chariots of Fire (1981), where Eric Liddell, one of the runners in a 440-yard race leading up to the 1924 Olympics, was bumped by another runner and fell to the infield. As all of the other runners passed him, I imagined what must have gone through his mind in that moment. Give up! You have lost! Don’t bother to finish the race! Instead, Liddell picked himself up, got back on the track, and ran as though he was destined to win—and he did!
I smiled for the first time in a long while. A beam of light had broken through my darkness. So what if I had fallen into the depths? The only way out for me now was up! I could get up, I told myself. I could get back on track and run. I might not win in dramatic fashion like Liddell, but I could finish the course, the great race of life.
Time has passed. I’m still running and have gained some important ground. I am now a recovering alcoholic and have found renewed purpose and fulfillment in a life rededicated to sharing God’s love and hope with others.
It’s never too late to get up and try again.—Scott Montrose
“I have finished the race” is the second clause of three within a passage written by the apostle Paul to Timothy: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”3 The apostle wrote these words near the end of his life. These three statements reflect Paul’s struggles in preaching the gospel of Christ and his victory over those struggles.
In the 1st century, the Romans celebrated both the Olympic Games and the Isthmian Games. Competitors would spend up to ten months in arduous physical training. Because the Corinthians were very familiar with these events, Paul used the games as an analogy for a believer’s life of faithfulness. He wrote the church in Corinth saying, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”4 Paul’s exhortation is that believers should be as focused and dedicated as those ancient runners in the games. Our motivation in serving Christ is much higher; we “run” not for a temporary crown, but for an eternal one.
In his letter to Timothy, Paul is not commending himself for having “run the full distance”5; rather, he is simply describing what the grace of God had enabled him to do. In the book of Acts, Paul says these powerful words: “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”6
So, by declaring “I have finished the race,” Paul is telling Timothy that he had put every effort into the work of proclaiming to all the gospel of salvation. He had completed the course set before him; he had left nothing undone. He was ready to cross the finish line into heaven. …
Every believer runs his own race.7 Each of us is enabled to be a winner. Paul exhorts us to “run in such a way as to get the prize,” and to do this we must set aside anything that might hinder us from living and teaching the gospel of Christ. The writer of Hebrews echoes the words of Paul: “Lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”8
May we be diligent in our “race,” may we keep our eyes on the goal, and may we, like Paul, finish strong.—From gotquestions.org9
Published on Anchor October 2021. Read by Jon Marc.
Music by Michael Dooley.
3 2 Timothy 4:7.
4 1 Corinthians 9:24–25.
6 Acts 20:24.
7 1 Corinthians 9:24.
8 Hebrews 12:1–2.
- Living in God’s Word
- God’s Healing Balm in Times of Grief
- Hurry and Worry
- One Thing Before All Things
- Faith Like Gold
- Learning About God’s Mercy
- Trusting Through the Silence
- A Life Well Lived, Today and for the Future
- How God Gave Me a Home
- Setting Our Affections on Things Above