One of my friends is not just a fitness instructor, I’d call her a fitness warrior. When I workout with her, I can always count on her to help me finish strong. She tells us, “It’s easy to start strong….it takes discipline to finish strong.”
And we all need a reminder like that when we’re weary, don’t we?
I think of Paul’s analogy of life as a race and a fight. It’s easy to start out fast and strong. But our faith and discipline are needed the most when we’ve lost steam. When we wonder if it’s worth it or if we’re making a difference. When our fight looks like it’s for nothing. When we’re weary because we’re near what feels like the end of something. A career, ministry, or particular season of life.
Faith says YES it is worth it. YES it makes a difference and it is for something! In her upcoming book, The Way Up Is Down, Marlena Graves reminds us, “our love and obedience are never wasted. One day they will be richly rewarded (1 Corinthians 15:58).
Earlier in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul wrote, “Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize. Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable crown. So I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
Win the Prize
Paul urged us to run in such a way to win the prize. That means staying strong throughout the race. I’ve run a handful of races and in each one half the runners blast off at the starting line. Inevitably I pass several of them. Not because I’m a better runner, but because I’ve learned to stick with my pace…the one I know I’m the strongest for the entire race and gets me to the finish line. Paul stayed strong and chose discipline because he wanted to fulfill his God-given commission.
Paul wrote about this consistently in his letters. He wrote the same kind of encouragement to the Philippians. Paul needed the love and support of his brothers and sisters and knew we would too. While he offered it to them, he reminded himself of these things. I’m the same way. More times than not, when I write or text a friend a note of encouragement, I’m giving myself one too.
Keep your dear ones in your mind as you fight your way up the long mountain of obedience. You’ll be tempted to slow down, or take an easier route – but it is only by discipline that you’ll finish, and it is only in finishing that you’ll be able to offer up your humble work to those weary souls who may need it.Andrew Peterson in Adorning the Dark
Paul wrote to Timothy, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time for my departure is close. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. There is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all those who have loved his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:6-8 CSB
So let us keep fighting the good fight. Let us keep our eye on the prize and not give in to the weariness. Let us not be distracted by what the world offers. We belong to the Kingdom of God and our prize is life with God.
But I consider my life of no value to myself; my purpose is to finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace. Acts 20:24 CSB
God, help us finish the courses and ministries we received from the Lord Jesus. Keep our eyes fixed and our hearts pure.