When is the race finished?

Each morning I have a reading ritual. One of those readings is from a daily devotional. This year I want to increase my leadership capacity, so I decided to pick that for my study. For this, I turned to, who else, John C. Maxwell. 

Monday I struck by a story of a marathon runner from Tanzania. It relates to many of the decisions, I am wrestling with and probably many other leaders.

John tells of how in 1968 during the Mexico City Olympics there were a few die-hard fans who stayed in the stadium to watch the conclusion of the marathon. The Ethiopian runner had won the race over an hour earlier as the fans resolved that all the racers were done they began to leave. As some made their way to the exits, there was a sudden sound of sirens and police whistles. There was one last runner.

John Akhwari from Tanzania ran into the stadium for his final 400-meter lap. Observers could tell that he was injured. John had a bandage on his leg from where he had fallen. Yet, it didn’t stop him.

He was asked why, though he was injured, though there was no hope of winning the race, why did he finish?

“My country did not send me to Mexico City to start the race,” He said. “They sent me to finish the race.”

John’s story left me with two observations. 

1) When things are hard, it’s easy to quit.

If Mr. Akhwari had quit, no one would tell his story. It certainly wouldn’t be an illustration of perseverance, character, and keeping your eye on the prize. Did he win? Certainly not gold. Still, John Akhwari’s story stands out to use because he continued.

We all face big decisions. When they encompass your dreams, and it seems like unbreakable obstacles stand against you, do you continue or fold? 

We can often be so focused on the pain that we miss the joy of accomplishment. We can allow our tenacity to be diluted with troubles so much that we don’t see our character growing through perseverance (Romans 5:3).

You started what you are doing to finish, not to give up.

2) We must stay focused on the goal.

Because we start to finish, it means quitting is not an option, no matter how hard it may seem. Bill Hybels tells the story of two prisoners in the same cell. Their surroundings overcame one of them. They are oppressed by the cold dark metallic bars. The other turn their sites to the window, looking past the bars, to see the stars and allowed hope to arise of a better future. 

What is the goal? That is what we are to set our sights on!

Imagine if the apostle Paul quit the mission of starting churches and raising leaders. While there is a plethora of adversity from local authorities (2 Cor 11), Paul faced incredible adversity working with the dysfunctional people of the Roman Empire and Judaism. Let’s be honest, if Paul were a church planter today, there wouldn’t be articles written about him regarding the exceptional disciples he produced, though he did. Think about some of the issues IN THE CHURCH. Corinth had some severe problems with promiscuity. Like, if you have to say stop sleeping with your step-mom, your church got some issues son. How about dealing with female sex cults in Ephesus or people insisting on being circumcised or un-circumcising yourself (don’t ask) in Crete and Galatia.

We must keep going. If we focus on the pain, trouble, hinderances, we never will.

We may finish bandaged up. We may have to take a route that we never imagined, do things differently than we thought. The question is, did you finish? Were you faithful to what God has called you to do? Did you serve and love him with all that you are? Did you love and serve?

Keep running. Why? 

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.

1 Co 9:24

Check out the resources used in this blog