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Finish line


Take sixty-seconds por favor! Please click right here and watch this powerful video clip. With the exceptions of your prayer and devotional time, a kiss from your spouse, and a hug from your children, it will be the best minute you spend today. This video is used with permission from Values.com, the Foundation for a Better Life, a non-profit that promotes good values.

Late one night I was flipping channels and caught this video as it was beginning. The worn and weary older fat guy was laboring through the final yards of a community run. It was immediately apparent he wasn't a runner. His clothes were scrub shorts and a grey t-shirt. His shoes were heavy clunkers more designed for hanging out than doing a 5K. Sweat covered his body and his knees were bleeding from falls along the way. The rest of the participants had departed and the city clean up crew was putting the park area back in order. When he came around the corner, barely moving, I thought of so many of my friends and colleagues in ministry straining toward the finish line. Even more, it gave me pause over my own life and the next chapters I was anticipating in retirement. It's also when the fog about the title of my new book came into focus. In that instant I knew it would be Finish. Period. Going the Distance in Ministry (Westbow Press, 2015). What is more, it gave further definition to what I had been feeling for a long time about the next phases of my personal calling. Helping people, whether in ministry or not, cross that finish line would be my final chapter.

This video registered with me for several reasons.

1. The finish line was a significant visible theme in the video.

When the city workers noticed the man coming around the corner they

immediately raised the finish sign back to it's normal place. Evidently the

writers and producers of this clip understand the importance of purpose and

mission in human development, goals and aspirations that beckon us forward

toward the finish. Finishing must be an important value at Values.com.

The finish line is a significant New Testament theme as well. The early church

operated under the expectation of Christ's imminent return. Many of the

parables Jesus told and much of the instruction in the Epistles visualized his

coming and the joys central to being united with him on that day. Of all the

promises related to the human finish line, one is particularly compelling for me

and I pray those eager for that day. Paul wrote---

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to

completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1:6, ESV

It is my personal conviction that we don't talk about the finish line enough. As in the video, our expectation of the finish is a thrilling encouragement to reach that place.

2. Encouragement was portrayed as essential in reaching the finish line.

Here's this overweight older man rounding the final turn in what is thought to

be a long community running event. There are no other runners pictured. They

have all finished, received their awards and ribbons, and departed. The

workers see the bleeding man, raise the finish banner, and stand on the edges

of the road way, clapping and cheering until he crosses the finish line. Their

encouragement is pictured as an essential element in his finish. When he

crosses the line, he falls to his knees and turns to capture the scene. Once

again, the Values.com people have ranked the touch of other humans as an

essential in our fulfilling our goals and mission in life.

You know this is a strong emphasis in the New Testament too. Over and over

God's words teaches us to encourage one another (see Romans 1:12,

Colossians 2:2, 1 Thessalonians 4:18 and 5:11). What is more, this

encouragement is seen as a element of the personal refreshment so necessary

for those in Christian service. Again, the Apostle Paul wrote about the

refreshment he expected and received from fellow believers (see Romans

15:12, 2 Timothy 1:16, Philemon 1:7 and 1:20).

This is another important area of personal conviction for me. Many servants,

spiritual leaders, family members, parents, church workers, and others in

critical positions never receive a word of encouragement or personal

refreshment. Most of them will never know the rush or surge that accompanies

a good word from others. It's why we should always have a good word for the

others we engage along the way, especially those who lead us.

3. Finishing the course was emphasized, not racing others.

Interestingly, this video portrays only one runner. It's clear a race was held at

the site and that many others had participated. But, this video captures only

one runner and the workers who encouraged him to finish. The Values.com

people focused their commercial on this one man and his quest to cross the

finish line. He wasn't racing anyone else. In fact, his place in the event was

never visualized in any way. Sure, we can assume he finished last. But, the

point of the video is that he finished, period.

Arrogant humans have a hard time functioning without comparison with

others. Our self-absorbed nature desires the applause and approval of men,

especially when discovered in a competitive environment. Again, reading my

values into the screen play rather that those of Values.com, the object of life is

to finish.period. and not to win the race over other people. Read some verses

to gain biblical perspective about a competitive motif in finishing the course set

before us---2 Corinthians 10:12, Galatians 1:10 and 6:4, Philippians 2:3, and

others. The race that Paul finished wasn't a contest. It was a long distance run

with a crown waiting at the finish line to those who complete it. Paul wrote it

this way---

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Henceforth there is laid up 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 loved his appearing.

2 Timothy 4:7-8, ESV

These were subtle messages that gave me a lift one night. I still love to show this video to groups and individuals who are struggling toward the finish line of their personal assignment. They're often in a funk, weighed down by time and distance, and maybe have hit the wall, making them ready to quit.

Then, there's the finish line and his provision for reaching it. Let's reflect on it often, talk about it much, and keep plugging along as we reach it.


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