I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 3:14
Years ago, while training for a marathon, I managed to get shin splints, plantar fasciitis and some of my toenails even fell off. But none of this mattered. I thought only of the goal – to complete the 42 km race. Once, my non-runner husband joined me for a run. Halfway through, he questioned why I love running when it’s so painful. But it was a passion, and I put up with the pain during training when I remembered the reward of finishing well.
Recently, I described to my daughter that anything worth doing – even those things you enjoy – will have some dislikable elements. It takes a great deal of hard work to accomplish worthwhile things. There will be uphill climbs, pain to push through, difficulties you must rise above, moments when you wonder if you should give up, and why you ever wanted it in the first place. But in the end – once you are passing through the finish line – you know it was worth it.
Jesus understood this struggle all too well. He endured pain, rejection, shame, betrayal and beatings. He did so knowing He was moving forward toward a much greater purpose. The cross was His finish line and he dragged himself uphill, bone weary and brokenhearted so we could be fully forgiven, have an intimate relationship with His Father, and have abundant, eternal life. He was fully aware of His purpose, and though exceedingly difficult, did not allow Himself to be dissuaded from accomplishing it.
Jesus understood the enormity of His purpose: that He was sent to take our sin on Himself and die in our place. No small or simple task. And though it may have appeared final, the cross was not really the end. Jesus also conquered death when He rose again. And now, He is at the right hand of the Father cheering for us.
“Christ Jesus who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” ~ Romans 8:34
And so, we too have a purpose and must not lose sight of the finish line. We must press on toward the goal. We may face uphill battles, rocky terrain, storms, and pain. We may suffer rejection, betrayal, and feel beaten down – in all these ways we partake in Christ’s sufferings. We may run with others for a time, and then at times utterly alone. But we don’t allow ourselves to lose sight of our destination and the One who allowed us passage there.
Our finish line is our final heavenly home gifted to us by our ransomed Savour. Like a substitute in a relay race, when a runner is absent or injured, Jesus is our substitute. He went in our place making a way so we can reach the finish line. Through Him, we are forgiven, redeemed, and accepted. Our passage is paid in full.
But though it appears so, the cross and heaven secured is not the end for us. We need to share this good news, pass the baton, cheer other runners on, and encourage them to the end so they too can cross the finish line to eternal life.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
~ Romans 12:1-3
May you run the race well and cheer others to do so too.
- In what ways are you struggling to run well? Ask Jesus to help you regain ground.
- How might you encourage a fellow “runner” to keep on?