When I was growing up, I played a lot of sports. While I loved each sport, I didn’t love the running. In fact, the thing I hated most during any practice was the running. Little did I know then that when I got older, I would use running as exercise!
I ran faithfully for about 12 years before back issues forced me to stop. Over those years, I ran 3 to 5 times per week anywhere from 2 to 7 miles each time. In addition to the daily running, I also ran about 50- 5k races. (For all the non-runners out there, that’s a distance of 3.1 miles.) Now don’t be too impressed. I was never very fast. My usual finish time was between 30-40 minutes.
I may not have been fast, but I did want to do my best. And it took me a while to figure out how to do that. You see, I learned that the key was to not run alone. It didn’t take me long to learn that in many races a person is assigned to run at a specific pace. When I found that person, I ran better.
On the other hand, when I didn’t bother to locate the pace setter, I often started out too fast and was done after the first mile. I needed someone in the race to set the pace for me. When I followed the pace setter, I was able to finish the race at the pace I set as my goal.
A MORE IMPORTANT RACE
In 2 Timothy 4:7, Paul says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
Now Paul wasn’t talking about a 5k. He was talking about a much more important race—a race we are all in.
As I equate the race Paul is talking about here to races that we are familiar with, I consider it a modified relay race. You remember relay races from gym class or the Olympics, right? Relay races are run by teams, with each member of the team running a designated lap and then handing a baton off to the next runner.
In our race, our team members are the coming generations (our children, grandchildren, and other younger people in our lives). We are running our lap, handing the baton to the next generation. But unlike the relay races with which we are familiar, we don’t back off after the baton has been handed over. No. We keep running right beside them. Arm-in-arm we run. Then, as we make the next lap, the next generation, get the baton. Once again, we do not stop. We link arms again so that all three generations run together.
Too many times in this race Paul is talking about, the older generation quits. Excuses such as, “I’ve done my time, I’ve earned some rest,” “I’ve worked hard all these years, it’s time to kick back and take care of me,” or “I’m not needed” keep them from even running.
Equally harmful to the outcome of the race, some of the younger generation says, “I’m not interested in what the older generation has to say. I’m not going to listen.” They’re not even looking to be handed the baton.
Both are crucial mistakes that need to be corrected. No matter which generation we are a part of, we need to be in continual watching, learning, and running mode. Olders, we need to be closely watching our children and grandchildren. Learning their perspective on the world. Pouring into them so they can, in turn, learn from us. Not preaching, but modeling, teaching, loving, and coaching them.
FINISHING THE RACE
Here’s the question before us today. How important is it to our children, grandchildren, and even those non-believers out there who are watching how we act, for us to finish the race strong.
This is why I see the race Paul is talking about as a modified relay race.
AND WE DON’T STOP RUNNING WITH THEM – until we are finally called home.
Then we can say as Paul said, “I have finished the race….”