Exit Stage Right
"For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course (the race), I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." 2 Timothy 4:6-9
I have heard it said that it does not matter how you start a race, but how you finish it. I love to watch the Olympics and observe the track and field events which bring a lot of excitement. The world’s fastest human being is discovered for the next four years, and it is the culmination of the hard work the athlete has put in for their entire lives. I have seen many races where athletes did not start off so well, but they recovered to win or come close to winning at the end of the event. A stumble out of the gate can sometimes lead to defeat, but that is not always the case, and nor does it have to be. One can recover, get back on track, and make the best of a bad situation. Time and again, this leads to a great comeback and a story that will be replayed countless times. I am grateful that a bad start does not determine the finish, and there is still much that can be done to change the course of one's race.
I started my Christian race in good fashion as I was saved at a young age. I desired to honor and please God with my young life, and I tried to live out what I was told from the pulpit. I got baptized years after my salvation, and I even desired to become a preacher. I put gospel tracts on my neighbor's door, and I helped to pass them out during trick or treat time. I was not a perfect kid of course, but I had an earnest desire to please God and do something big for Him. I am not sure what happened to those desires as I grew to the teenage years, but I seemed to have stumbled during the course of my race.
I began to falter and there were even times that I took steps backward and sat off to the side. I was convicted at times and began to pick up the pace, only to be slowed again by the lures and cares of the world. My spiritual attention span could not be held very long, and I seemed all but lost in the spiritual race. I would get back on track from time to time, but I would not fully sell out or even pick up a respectable pace. God allowed me to lead an addictions ministry at our church, which forced me to look at my own life and make the changes I had ignored and put off for years. I got back in the race and again truly desired to do what was right and please God. God continued His work in me, and I started to see changes in my life and I began to make up lost ground. My past did not have to doom my future, and I started to claim the victory God had already given me. I learned my race was not over, and that every day God gives me on this earth is a gift and an opportunity to run the race He has called me to.
The Apostle Paul was approaching the end of his earthly race, and he knew he was about to exit this present world to spend all of eternity with His Lord and Savior. He did not start his race so well as he sought out Christians to persecute them. He was an antagonist to the gospel, and was feared by the Christians of the current day. Paul was not someone you wanted to encounter as a Christian, and he did not seem like he would have a future on the Christian race track. However, God is able to do the impossible, and He changed Paul's course and Paul seemed to sprint to make up for lost time. Here he was, writing to Timothy and telling him he ran a good race and was finished with the work God had called him to. He did not dwell on the past, but he looked forward to the glorious end that was in view. Just as Paul was able to run a good race while having one of the worst starts known to mankind, there is no limit to what God can do in us no matter how poor we started our race or how far we got off track.
Where are you today, friend? What will be said of you when your race is over? Will you have run a good race? Will you have fought a good fight? Will you hear, “Well done my good and faithful servant”, or will you die with regret and sorrow? May we never lose sight of eternity and the goal that is set before us, and may we finish our race well as we exit this world to spend all of eternity with Him.
Stay in the fight!