Training to Finish

“I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”  Acts 20:24

Have you ever attempted to run a marathon? Running 26.2 miles is not my idea of fun; but successful marathon runners say that it is one of the most rewarding feats they have ever accomplished. One thing I know for sure about running a marathon is that you don’t just show up on race day and try to run such a long distance. In fact, the training is perhaps the most important part of successfully finishing the race.

Half of the battle isn’t the running of the race itself, but finding the resolve to run day after day to train. There are many training techniques for long-distance running. But, there are a few key elements that most coaches would agree on. It’s important to remember that coaches measure success not by how many runners line up on the start line, but by how many finish the race. Most successful coaches agree on these three things: 1) Running partners make the journey easier and more fun; 2) You must fuel up your body with proper nutrition and hydration; and 3) Rest is a crucial component of training.

In Acts 20:24, Paul summed up the purpose of his life. The only thing that mattered to him was to finish the race and complete his assigned task as a follower of Christ. The gospel was his focus; and he was intentional about living out his purpose. Life with Christ, in many ways, is like a marathon. We cannot just “show up” for life each day and expect to finish strong and complete our God-given task. The Christ-life, like running, requires fuel. God’s Word and His Spirit nourish our souls and give us what we need to be a minister of His grace. Rest is also necessary. We must learn to rest in His power, relying on His strength and not our own. We must learn to not overload our lives with the “good” at the expense of His best. This requires self-discipline.

It is no wonder that Paul compared Christian living to running. Both require endurance, self-discipline and training. Both are easier when done in community. And both begin with a choice…a resolve to keep at it, day after day, even when it is grueling. How do you finish a marathon? One mile at a time. And how do you complete the task God has given you to be a witness of the gospel? One day at a time.

Dear God, I want to finish the race strong, like Jesus did. I know that requires great resolve and sacrifice. Please forgive me for allowing my focus to shift to the temporary things that surround me. Please help me to remember daily the task You have entrusted to me, and to make choices that keep me in the center of Your will for my life.    In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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