I love starting things, but I’m not always the best at finishing. My life is full of half-read books, half-finished projects, and half-organized files. When I do finish, it’s rarely with as much enthusiasm as when I began. It’s not something I’m proud of, but maybe you can relate.
If you’re like me and struggle with finishing, maybe we share a common hero: John Stephen Akhwari. John represented Tanzania in the 1968 Olympics as a marathon runner in Mexico City. Unfortunately, Mexico City was at a much higher altitude than his home country where he had trained, and it was not long before he started cramping up. Then, at the kilometer 19 out of 42, he was accidentally knocked down by some other runners, injuring and dislocating his knee, along with a hard hit to his shoulder on the pavement. But John got up and kept going. The sun had set, most of the crowds had left, and all 56 other finishing competitors had crossed the finished line before John finally limped into the stadium. The small crowd cheered him on, and he finished the marathon with a time of 3:25:27, about an hour after the winner.
Later, an interviewer asked why he hadn’t quit, even with his serious injuries, and he said:
My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race; they sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race.*
Sometimes finishing is the hardest work you will ever do. Yes, it’s scary to try something new, intimidating to get on a plane and fly 5,000 miles to a land you’ve never seen to serve people you’ve never met. But it’s hanging in there until the end of the race that can test one’s character like nothing else.
How can you finish the race God called you to run? So glad you asked. Hebrews 12:1-3 has the perfect answer:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion of initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.
You can finish well because Jesus is with you from start to finish. He called you to run this race. He is cheering you on at the finish line. He is running with you, and He knows the pain because He went through it too, but He finished strong.
As many of you near the end of your mission-race, I pray you will not be distracted by your weariness or any temptation the enemy throws at you. Instead, may you keep your eyes locked on Jesus, who gives you all the faith and strength you need to finish well for His glory. And whether you cross the finish line running or limping, I pray you’ll see Him there, with open arms, excited to celebrate this victory with you.
Once or twice a month, we send out a short devotional to our volunteers. This was written by Andrea Keele and was sent to our volunteers on April 13, 2016.