Almost anyone can run a sprint, but only a few can endure a marathon. Often many believers approach the Christian life as though they were in a sprint. For a season they get emotionally excited and boast about all that they are going to do for Christ; but then they drop out. Careers, relationships, pleasure, and many other things distract their attention and serving Christ is no longer their top priority. Some talk of re-entering the race at a later date; but few ever do.
How different that is from the person who approaches the Christian life as though they were running a marathon. Marathon runners know that short, sudden bursts of speed is not their greatest asset, but instead it is their ability to endure to the very end. They understand that many make the headlines by jumping out in front, but only a few ever run to the very end.
Church history records the testimony of many believers who made it their ambition to finish the Christian race successfully. One such great runner was a man we know as the Apostle Paul.
Like many of those who run an earthly marathon, Paul’s race included moments of pain and difficulty. Scripture speaks of the physical abuse he had to suffer, as well as emotional distress. Paul also tells us about times of intense spiritual warfare. Included also in his spiritual marathon was the pain of hearing other ‘so-called contestants’ taunt him as they passed him by. There were also seasons in his life when he felt as though he was the only one running. Yet regardless of how difficult his race got, he never dropped out. I am sure that there were times when he might have thought about it, yet he was determined to run to the very end. What kept Paul in the race? Much of it was the promise of a reward from his Savior.
Consider what Paul said near the end of his race –
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day– and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”
Paul expected to receive a ‘Crown of Righteousness’ from his Savior. In my mind, I can see the aged apostle, all bruised and battered, stumbling across the finish line and finally falling into his Master’s arms. Did the Lord place such a crown upon his head? Only eternity will tell us for sure, yet we can be assured that Paul heard these wonderful words from his Savior – “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”
What a day, glorious day, that would be!