My husband and I attend church on the island near our home. At last, we are attending church in person once again! It is such a gift to gather with other Christians for praise and worship. During the service, it is customary to offer prayers together for those who are sick or suffering as well as for those with thanks and praise reports. This is a time to listen to what is going on with our fellow Christians. It is also a time that causes me to think about our journey on this road we call life. As years go by, people we used to see in church, in our neighborhood, or even on the golf course, are now moving on further down the road of life. Prayers are said for neighbors recovering from surgeries or treatments and for those who remain in hospitals. Others have recently lost their siblings or best friends. And so we travel together on this road of life to the finish line.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it, 1 Corinthians 9:24
When I ran marathons, there was a time of hitting “the wall” when you feel as if you cannot continue to put one foot in front of the other. A common mantra at this time in the race is to “finish strong.” It was the mantra that motivated me, when I wanted to give up, to continue with the struggle and finally get my foot across the finish line.
Recently, I retired from working full time as a professor. Unexpectedly, I received a call from a publisher who informed me that a book I had written more than thirty years ago was going into a new edition. To update my publisher about my new Christian writing projects and interests, I sent him a link of my recent release, Both Sides of the Border. He emailed back with a short note, “You are finishing strong.” His remark gave me pause because I believe I have a long way to go. I am still in “training” so to speak, for my faith. There is more to learn, more to write, and there is always a need to strengthen my faith. But his comment caused me to smile. I’m not finished yet, but I am going to finish strong.
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, Philippians 3:14
Paul instructed the congregations in Philippi and Corinth, and also to Timothy whom he mentored, to stay strong. He reminded followers of Jesus to approach faith as athletes approach training for a race. Stay consistent, stay focused, and finish strong so that our faith endures until we reach the final prize. And in Hebrews, we are reminded once again to continue with our fight and to not become weary or fainthearted.
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted, Hebrews 12:3
No matter where you might be on your life journey, whether you are just starting a marriage, a career, a family, strengthening faith can parallel your journey in this world. There is always more to learn about the Word of God. And at times, when we are weary from our journey on this road, when we strengthen our faith, it will strengthen us for the final leg of the race. At last, like Paul, may we be able to say we kept our faith, finished the race, and made it to our final prize.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith, 2 Timothy 4:7