Friday, August 5, 2016

Going the Distance

A remarkable thing happened at the 1968 Olympics. While competing in the marathon in Mexico City, John Stephen Akhwari of Tanzania suffered cramps due to the high altitude of the city. At the nineteen-kilometer point, during the forty-two-kilometer race, Akhwari fell after being hit by some other runners while jockeying for position, cutting and dislocating his knee and severely wounding his shoulder as he hit the hard pavement. But Akhwari continued running and finished the race in great pain—and in last place.

When he finally crossed the finish line, a full hour after the winner, a cheer came from the small crowd that remained. When later interviewed, a reporter asked him, “Why did you continue? You were hurt. No one would have blamed you if you had quit.” Akhwari replied, “My country did not send me five thousand miles to start the race. They sent me five thousand miles to finish the race.”

There is something admirable and special about a person who refuses to quit amidst great adversity. We admire someone who keeps getting up after falling down time and time again. All of us go through circumstances in our lives when we’re tempted to quit, and the Akhwaris in life inspire us to keep going. We become tempted to give up in tough times because we feel hopeless. We think quitting would be the greatest feeling we could imagine, because it would rescue us from our stress and discouragement.

However, there is a high cost for quitting before our race is over.

1. Quitting damages our faith. Faith grows when we have to use it. Quitting causes us to give up before our faith can develop and produce.

2. Quitting stunts our spiritual growth. Romans 5:3-5 teaches that the trials we experience help us to mature in Christ.

3. Quitting robs God. It robs God of His glory in the world. We demonstrate with our life that there is little benefit in trusting Him. (Hebrews 11:6)

4. Quitting keeps us from receiving God’s blessing. “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” (Hebrews 10:36)

So, how do we endure in the midst of adversity?

First, we must look behind us—remembering what God has done in our past. Hebrews 11 is filled with testimonies of those who faced trials and endured. Nothing builds faith faster than to remember with gratitude what God has already done for us.

Then we must look up. Hebrews 12:2 says, “…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Keep looking to Jesus who has all power to help in every situation.

Finally, we must look ahead. Hebrews 12:3 teaches, “For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Once we remember what God has done in our past, we then make Jesus the focal point of our present, so that we can more easily place our hope in Him for the future.

Remember, God did not send us here to start the race—but to finish the race!

Wanting more information about endurance? Read my new book Overcoming Spiritual Vertigo.

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