You are probably familiar with the old adage, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.” I was a sprinter in high school and college and I never won or lost a race at the starting line. How I started the race did often help in my quest to cross the finish line first, but ending well always determined whether or not I won the race.
For example, in the 100 meter dash, since the race is so short, a good start is very important, but without proper running form, lightning fast speed, and a smooth finish, you will not win the race, unless your name is Usain Bolt, the world record holder who usually blows away his competition while often looking like he is in cruise control. On the other hand, the 400 meter race is a brutal race. It is one lap around the track and involves speed, stamina, and also tactical strategy. (Some 400 runners have sprinter’s speed, others have middle distance runner’s endurance, while the best 400’ers have a balance of speed and endurance, and they use both to their advantage in the race.) The last third of the 400 is the worst. Every ounce of energy is gone – your muscles are screaming to stop, your legs feel like rubber, your mouth is dry, your breathing is labored, your body has shut down. But the 400 is most often won in that last third; the runner who has one extra drop of gas left in the tank often outruns the competition in the last few yards and crosses the finish line first.
Life is more like a 400 meter race than it is an all out sprint for 100 yards. For some, life is more like a marathon, pacing yourself for 26.2 miles, striving to maintain a steady and comfortable pace up and down the hills, slowing now and then for a drink of water and a suck on an orange slice, and crossing the finish line with your tank empty.
I learned that my speed or my endurance only got me so far on my own. I needed good coaching, along with commitment and hard work, to help me maximize my strengths and minimize my weaknesses. Isn’t it true that so often we try to be both athlete and coach and we don’t look to those who can help us become the best we can be?
Committing your life to Jesus and following Him does not guarantee that you will win every single race (loved ones still die of cancer, unemployment still happens, marriages still fail, sin still tempts you), but it does promise that you will always have a coach who can help you overcome a bad start so you can finish well. In John 16:33 Jesus, after telling His followers that He will soon die, tells them (and us today), “I tell you these things, so tat in me you can have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
God has given us the Holy Spirit to lead, guide, and direct our steps. When you invite Jesus into your heart you also get the Holy Spirit as part of that transaction. “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16)
So, regardless of your slow start (your past), or current messed up race strategy (your present), with the God the Father as the “initiator” of your faith, through Jesus as the “implementer” of that faith, and by the Holy Spirit as your faith “energizer,” your future is hopeful and you can (and will!) finish the race well. If you’ve never asked Jesus into your heart, you can invite Him in right now. If you are already a Jesus follower but you feel the race slipping away, right now ask God to re-fill you with His Spirit. (We all leak so we need to be refilled over and over again.)
New Bern, North Carolina