Run Relentlessly. Finish Well.By Stacey Weeks
September 29, 2021
“I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7).
I love to run. I work out stress by following a trail and feeling the wind on my face, but running was not a love-at-first-sight sort of love. It’s taken me years to learn to love running, and this affair began way back in high school. It developed as I began to see and appreciate the effect of regular exercise and activity. I feel better after running, which motivates me to free up even more running time in my schedule. My mental health needs me to run.
I have worked hard to recover from serious injuries. I’ve trained for races using a race date as a motivator. I spent my high school years competing in track and cross-country under the instruction of a coach who trained our team. He shared inspiring songs and planned strategy sessions. In one such session, he requested something unthinkable—he wanted me to throw the race.
“Running is a lone sport and a team sport,” he said, “You run for yourself but you also run for our school. Our school will rank first overall if your teammate takes gold in the 800-meter.”
But the 800-meter was my race.
My coach petitioned me to plan for a second-place finish and run for the team instead of running for me.
Every cell in my body wanted the praise that came with the first-place title, but as I approached the final 200 meters of the race, something inside shifted. I stopped running selfishly, and I saw the team. The team needed me to finish second.
Faith is a Team Sport
From the moment God brought you to repentance of your sins and caused you to seek the Lord’s forgiveness, the starting pistol exploded. You pushed off the blocks and entered the race. Ready or not, your feet are hitting the pavement and challenging terrain lies ahead. You’re training as you go, becoming more grounded in God’s Word as you study and apply it to your life. Your success is not measured in kilometers traveled, but in maturity and fruit. You will learn to treasure and protect the time that training in righteousness requires of you (2 Tim. 3:16). Your spiritual health needs you to run, and this race will change everything in your life. You are called to run in such a way that you earn the prize (1 Cor. 9:24). This means you will fight to protect your schedule to allow ample time for training. You are to run with endurance the race set before you (Heb. 12:1), which means you understand God sets you on the path He desires you to take. I run my race, and you run yours. We cannot finish for each other, but if we develop a teammate mentality, we can encourage one another to press into our unique callings and persevere. We can cheer each other onward.
“Finishing well” is the ribbon stretched across my ministry track. With everything in me, I long to cross eternity’s line and hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” It took some time for me to understand that this is not the biggest-ministry race or the best-author race or the you-fill-in-the-blank race. We run the keeping-the-faith race. We are called to finish well, not necessarily finish first. In fact, I suspect a greater victory comes when we sacrifice the admiration that accompanies a visible first place finish, and instead focus on encouraging our injured and burdened brothers and sisters to persevere.
I need your encouragement. I confess, right now, I’m exhausted at a level I’ve never felt before. The last few years have taken their toll and the temptation to drop-out and give-up seems larger than ever. The terrain feels too difficult, the incline too steep, the duration too uncertain. It is in times like this that I need to hear my teammates cheering.
The answer to my problem is not to withdraw to the sidelines. I find encouragement in opening my eyes and seeing that I am not alone. God freshly ignites my passion for Him every time I invest in and cheer for the ministries and growth of others. Something shifts inside of me when I stop competing and comparing, and start recognizing that I can help my brother and sister-in-Christ fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith. When we take our eyes off of ourselves and focus on helping others, we find that we end up stronger. So whatever you face today, know that I am cheering for you.