Finishing the Race is More Important Than Winning the Race

19 09 2011

I teach in a private, Christian, college-prep school in Nashville, TN.  As part of our mission, we are called to have a chapel/devotional/prayer time each day.  Most are student-led, but faculty are asked to share a couple of times a month, too.  In 13 years, I’ve only given three devotionals.  I can get up in front of hundreds of people on a daily basis to teach or make announcements, but there is something so much more intimate and personal when I share what God is doing in my life.  What follows is a devotional I gave last week that is very closely tied to my post on My First Triathlon.

“Two-and-a-half weeks ago, I finished my first triathlon.  It was a 300 yard swim, a 16.5 mile bike, and a 2.9 mile run.  (applause erupted in the auditorium!  I wasn’t expecting anything of the sort, but I have to say, it helped calm my nerves.)

I was #450 out of 491 athletes that day.  You are assigned your number based on your projected swim time and overall course finish time.  So I was definitely considered one of the slowest participants that day.

Fast forward a few hours, and as I cross the finish line, I’m smiling ear to ear.  Ecstatic.  My family and friends were there to cheer me on.  They announced my name over the loud speaker.  It was pretty overwhelming and emotional for me.

As much as an incredible physical experience this was for me, it was also a very spiritual experience for me.  God really used the time on the course to remind me of a few lessons, and promises of His that I had lost sight of recently.  I’m not going to share all those lessons now–that would be overwhelming to you–but I’m going to focus on this one.

God reminded me that finishing the race was more important than winning the race.

My goals for this triathlon were very simple:  to finish upright, conscious, not having passed out or puked along the way.  And I
accomplished each one of those.  I also had a goal of finishing under 2:30:00. My official time was 2:29:41.  19 seconds under my goal!  I finished in 438th place out of 450 finishers.   I was the 13th slowest person to finish the race that day.  Even if I had knocked off 10 minutes (10 minutes!!! ) off my time, I still would have been in 438th place.

I hope you can tell how much any of that bothers me.  Because it doesn’t.  I FINISHED A TRIATHLON!  I turn 39 in one week, and I just finished my first triathlon.  That’s pretty amazing to me.

For those of you who’ve done something like this, you know that there is nothing quite like finishing a task that you didn’t even think you could accomplish when you first began.

Paul reminds us in Acts 20:24, “My only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me.”

That day, my task was a physical one—to finish a triathlon.  But more important than any physical task are those spiritual tasks that God calls us to every day; those things that shape who we are on the inside, our character, and our integrity.

My task is to be kind, gentle, and yet firm in the Truth.  My task is to practice patience and humility.  My task is to teach and train my children and my students “in the way they should go so that when they are old they will not part from it.”  My task is to treat my husband with respect and honor and to make our home a refuge for my family and our guests.  My task is mirror Christ’s love and forgiveness with everyone I come into contact with in any situation.

Nowhere does God say, I have to be the best teacher, the best wife, the best mother, the fastest runner.  That’s not what it’s about.

My task is to simply do my best.  And in doing my best, I will finish victoriously.  Whether I finish first or last, I will finish victoriously.

So consider this.  What tasks has God placed before you?  Do you need to be a kinder person?  More patient? More forgiving?  More humble?  Do you need to be more respectful of your parents, your teachers, your spouse?  Do you need to stop the gossiping?  Lose the sarcastic tongue?  Quit the coarse talking and joking or listening to obscene music?  Maybe the task God is calling you to is simply to spend more time with Him, your Creator, in prayer, or reading God’s word?  Maybe your task is to be more giving of your time or material resources, volunteer more, or serve more.

The task God is calling us to is different for each one of us.  But whatever He is calling you to, are you listening?   Are you doing your best?  Can you honestly examine your life right now and say you are living a victorious life in Christ?

It’s not about winning.
It’s about finishing.

Let’s pray.

Father God, I am so thankful to be in a school where we can come before you freely and share our faith. May we never take that blessing for granted.  I thank you for giving each of us another day to do your will.  I ask now that you speak to our hearts, each one of us, and that we would be still and listen.  I pray for your strength and wisdom and endurance to help us fulfill the tasks you have set before us.  Simple or complex, easy or difficult, remind us that you are with us every step of the way and help us to live victoriously in you.

Amen.”

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5 responses

19 09 2011
April

AWESOME post! I will be sharing this on Facebook. Owensboro is a big running community. My son, Drew ran XC and track from Middle School through College. He ran the Chicago Marathon last year and he was simply glad to finish the race. He also ran the Sears Tower race two years ago and came in 22 out of 2500- Yes, our family has learned many life lessons over the years from Drew’s running and our observations through the training to the races.
You may want to check out Drew on twitter at @drewhawkins and his website BrainWads.com-
Blessings to you this week. April
B

19 09 2011
huddlestonk

Thanks for reading and sharing! I’ll check out your son’s site when I get a chance later today.

19 09 2011
Wayne Augden

Wonderful post. It’s a great thing when we meet someone who reminds us of important truths. As christians we should be an inspiration to others in our conduct, langage, and expression. Great job. Keep up your good work, and continue to run the race. I’ll see you at the finish line. 🙂

25 09 2011
shanksr

I really enjoyed listening to your devotional. As a perfectionist, it’s really hard to remember that it’s not always about being the best! But my favorite part of the whole thing might have been doing the wave. 😉

25 09 2011
Kory

I loved your devotional too. It was really inspiring and definitely gave me something to think about.

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