Starting and Finishing Lines Are Not the Same

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This past weekend I was in the Boston area to teach the Go and Tell Evangelism Workshop and preach at Fairlawn CRC church.

I flew into Logan Airport in Boston and was happy to meet my church contact, Brandon. We had a great lunch together and talked about the Boston area. As we were driving to the church, he told me that we were near the starting line of the Boston marathon and asked me if I wanted to see it. I told him I would love to visit this famous landmark.

I was excited to stand on the starting line of the world's oldest and best-known marathon. As I stood on the line, I thought of the passage in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27:

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. Therefore, I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others. I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 

Brandon told me that he had run in the race five times and talked about the training, hard work, and joy in completing the race. The Boston Marathon usually takes place in the spring, on Patriots Day. Due to Covid, the race was held in the fall this year.

I shared that I had a friend who ran in the Boston Marathon just a week ago. I shared how proud I was of this former college student who attended my church when she ran track in college. I told him that Felicia is now a kindergarten teacher in Michigan.

When she ran the Boston Marathon, I followed along with her race progress on the official website. On the Boston Marathon website, you can write an encouraging note to the runners. I was blessed to read the messages from her students and school: "We are so proud of you! You are amazing! You're doing great! Keep going—we are watching!"

After the race, Felicia shared how awesome it was to receive so much support and encouragement to spur her on to finish the race. I thought of the passage in Hebrews 12:1, which says, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."

I was able to stand on the Boston Marathon finish line the following day. As I reflected on standing on this great race's starting and finishing line, I realized something. One of the problems in the church today is when people profess faith in Jesus; they think that the starting line and the finish line are the same spots.

When we profess faith in Jesus, that is when we start to run the race for God's glory. I think many Christians think that their salvation date is also the finishing line. They believe they are saved, and eternal life is secure, but they neglect to run the race that is marked out for them for the glory of God. They live life in the way they want, but that's not the race the Lord has for us. We are to live for the glory of God, and we are to run this race for Jesus. After we profess faith in Jesus, we are to live our life for the glory of God.

The Boston Marathon is exactly 26 miles and 386 yards, but we do not know how long our race for Jesus will be. It might be a race of a year, five years, 10 years, or 50 years, but we have a race marked out before us. The Scriptures tell us that there're going to be people who will try to discourage us from running this race. Galatians 5:7-8 says, "You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you."

The Bible warns us that people will seek to hinder us from running the race and get us off the course that the Lord has for us. I just read a heartbreaking story about getting led off the racecourse recently at the Quad Cities Marathon in Moline, Illinois. The two marathon front-runners were about halfway to the finish line when they spotted a marathon volunteer cycling through the route. They both followed the marathon volunteer, who mistakenly led both runners off the course. They were both automatically disqualified from the race, which is also a Boston Marathon qualifier event.

I want to ask you if anyone is seeking to dissuade you from running the race the Lord has marked out for you? Are people discouraging you from reading the word of God, praying for others, praying for the lost by name, sharing the love of Jesus by your deeds and words, or discouraging you from meeting with other believers?

The Bible warns us that the enemy will seek to keep us from finishing this race. Over the years, I have seen many people be led off the Lord's course laid out for them. Are you running the race the Lord has for you or has someone led you astray? I do not know how long I must run this race of life for the glory of God, but I do know that I want to finish the race well.

As Felicia ran the Boston Marathon for the first time, her friends, students, and family encouraged her to complete the race. She said it was very difficult, but she rejoiced that she completed the race and was so grateful for the support she received from others.

I want to encourage you to stay on course and have your eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith. Finish the race that's marked out before us for the glory of God.

As I reflect on standing on the starting line for the Boston Marathon one day and then standing on the finish line the following day, my prayer is that I will faithfully run and finish the race for God's glory. I do not think that I have every heard a person regret finishing the Boston Marathon, but I have heard of many people who regretted that they did not finish the race.

I pray that you will keep running the race by keeping your eyes on Jesus and that you will not be disqualified but will complete the race for the glory of God. 

Starting and Finishing line are not the same.

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Great article! Thanks Jim.  I ran my first Boston marathon a couple of weeks ago, so this really resonated with me. I came for Ontario (near Toronto) and I'm now eager to return and do it again (and even try to do a bit better, and I'm over 70 - so a big ask!). And the words of Paul were an encouragement for me. The start line was great - the finish line - amazing! Cheers!