Bring it Home (March 2022)

Finish Strong

On numerous occasions I have shared with the students that when I was in high school, I ran track and cross country. I was a long distance runner, and I loved it; I don’t look like I was a runner anymore, but I was. My favorite event in track was the mile, and I was able to qualify for our league and district meet every year in Cross Country. Through that experience I learned a very important lesson, you must finish every race you run well.

On my mom’s side of the family I am distantly related to perhaps the greatest distance runner the United States has ever produced, Steve Prefontaine. Steve never lost a race that was over a mile on American soil, and he qualified and competed in the 1972 Olympic games in Munich. Pre, as his fans called him, was a very cocky runner. Before the Olympics, he stated that in the last mile he was going to make it a pure guts race, and if it became one, he was the only one that could win it. If you watch the video I have included, you will see that he did indeed make it a pure guts race, but he did not win, he didn’t even medal. Why? Because Pre did not finish well; what’s even more important is that earlier in the race he did not run in a way that would set him up to finish well.
A few weeks ago we began a new series on Wednesday nights that we’re calling “Champion Churches(?).” In this study we’re looking at each of the seven churches that the letter of Revelation is addressed to. Because Revelation is primarily an eschatological letter, meaning it focuses on the end times, our primary goal is to learn from these seven churches how we as modern Christians can finish well. As we have been studying these churches, we’ve been learning what they did well, and what they were not doing well.

In 2 Timothy 4 verses 6 through 8, Paul discusses finishing well. He writes in verse 7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Paul is writing this letter to his protege, Timothy, while under house arrest. Many scholars believe that just a few months after he wrote this letter Paul was executed. So, this is being written at the end of his life and the end of his ministry. Paul is saying, he is finishing well. What he writes in verse 7 should be the goal of every follower of Jesus. Paul did not start out well, he persecuted Christians before he came to faith. Yet, once he started his relationship with Jesus, Paul went full speed ahead making sure he would finish strong. What’s more he implored those he taught to finish well too.

So, how can we encourage our teens to follow hard after Jesus now, and to make sure they will finish well. We are living in a very tumultuous time that can challenge anyone’s faith. There are many suggestions I could give, but for the sake of time I will give one. As I get older I realize that the choices I made when I was younger still affect me today. A great illustration of this is using a compass to navigate when you’re hiking on a trail, also known as shooting an azimuth. I had to do this while backpacking through some mountains in New Mexico when I was 15. We would get to a point in the trail, look at our map, and have to figure out which direction to go. If we had our compass off, even by a few degrees, it would cost us miles of hiking in the end. When we would start down the wrong path we wouldn’t notice how far we were off course, but by the time we kept going down that path it would become clear that we were miles off course.
If someone doesn’t start well, it makes it difficult to finish strong. It is very easy to look at our choices and say we are not that far off course, down the road however if the bad choices or habits are allowed to continue we can see how far off we really are. My suggestion then is that we encourage our students to really begin to include God in their decision making now, when they are young. If they simply ask the question is the choice I’m about to make going to honor God, it can help them start and finish strong. For me it boils down to my favorite verse, 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Therefore whether you eat or drink, whatever you do, do all for the glory of God.” This passage helped me to start my relationship with Jesus well, it continues to keep me strong, and will help me to finish strong.

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