The apostle Paul talked about running the good race and finishing the race, quite a few times in the New Testament. His references to running are several and it always leaves me with the wistful notion that Paul was a runner as a kid, or maybe even as a young adult. Understanding the metaphors is fairly straightforward but I often think there may be more to what Paul was talking about.
For instance, in running, as is often the case in most sports, when you near the finish of a race you get anxious and your heart rate changes, your stride quickens and your concentration goes from simply running to finishing. It’s a remarkable process, really, and it is the same for nearly all runners who run races. The finish line represents the end of the race. All the planning, all the training, all the effort seems to build up for that very last stride that carries a runner across the finish line. Naturally, the rest of the race is critical but to be sure, crossing that finish line is the most important feature of any race.
The thing about it is, when you start a race you can’t see the finish line. Some people like to envision the finish line as a kind of motivating force that propels them there. Some people imagine breaking the tape and being the first runner across and that image urges them on to the end. For most runners, seeing the finish line is euphoric. Knowing you are about to be done running is a comforting feeling and typically runners will surge to the line. Sprinting to the finish is a common way to finish a race and runners do so to enhance their times, but certainly, a runner is also very aware that the finish line means they get to stop.
Let me say that again. When you get to the end of the race, you get to stop. Only the truly wacky keep running after the race is over. What does it mean to you that you get to stop? It means that your effort, your concentration, your focus, your will and desire to finish, everything within you gets to stop doing what you were doing; which was running. Again, that feeling is euphoric for a lot of runners.
As I relate my understanding of running and racing to my understanding of scripture, I find a lot of correlation. In this life, I cannot see the finish line. At best, I can try and imagine it but that seems weird. Similar to running, there is a fair amount of training that takes place so that I can run along on this spiritual journey. As I run, so to speak, the continued focus and effort is non-stop, but I do it because I know that eventually, I will get to cross a finish line of sorts. But until then, I push ahead, step by step and stride by stride.
As I get closer to the end of my race here on this planet, I pray that I am not anxious about the finish. I’d like to believe that I’m really only about halfway through, but I make no predictions regarding what God has planned for me. Instead, I run on, knowing that at some point I will round that last corner and see the finish line ahead. I will know what awaits as I cross it and I will most likely desire to sprint into His arms. And as my anticipation grows, it is important to note that it is the euphoria of finishing that guides me.