The Greatest Last Place Finish

The gun fired and hundreds of competitors jumped into motion at the Olympic marathon event in 1968. Spectators watched as the men ran mile after mile. Hours later, the runners began entering the stadium and soon the race was over. The other Olympic events continued for a couple of hours until all the spectators noticed a man staggering into the stadium. The man was John Stephen Akhwari, an athlete from Tanzania. His knee was badly cut, bleeding, bandaged, and had been dislocated from a fall he had taken earlier in the race. The audience realized he was still running the marathon and burst into cheers. Akhwari slowly and painfully made his way around the track. Every step was agonizing but he pressed on. Finally, Akhwari crossed the finish line. Hours later he sat down with journalists who all had the same question on their minds, “Why did he continue the race even though he was hours behind everyone else?” The Tanzanian runner simply replied, “My country did not send me 7000 miles away to start the race. They sent me 7000 miles to finish it.”

Living life as a Christian is a difficult race. Many have quit. Many have dropped out. Many have forgotten the lifelong commitment they had made to God. Many start the race, but few finish it (Matthew 7:13-14). Only those who finish will receive the reward (Revelation 2:10). We don’t even have to come in the top 100 to get the prize. We just have to finish.

Hebrews 12:1-2 gives us such a great summary of this discussion. We see the crowd of those cheering for us to keep going. We see the sin “injuries” that may slow us down, but we need to push through them. We see the finish line, Jesus, whom we’re trying to reach. Read these beautiful words:

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

The Christian marathon can be quite challenging, but it’s worth it. We did not become Christians just to start this race; we became Christians to finish this race! Don’t give up!

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