Mike Mayberry’s to-do list was long, but so was his determination to enjoy one last, lazy day of fishing before summer's end. So, he ignored the leaky faucet, the broken gate, and other --household repairs. When his wife asked him Saturday morning what he planned to do that day, he answered, "It starts with “f” and ends with ‘ish’."
"Oh, good," she replied. "You're finally going to finish those projects!"
Not what he had in mind! As hard as it sometimes is to get started, it is often much, much more difficult to finish. Countless partially completed projects testify to this truth. Drop-outs from the church do, too.
That’s why Brazilian Vanderlei de Lima is admirable. He didn’t win the Olympic marathon in Athens in 2004, but he did finish. Leading after 20 tiring miles, de Lima had an excellent chance to wear a gold medal home. That is, until some kook in a kilt inexplicably ran onto the course and tackled him. De Lima didn’t win, but he did manage to finish. And he won great respect, along with a bronze medal. And that’s more Olympic jewelry than most of the world’s 6 billion people will ever wear.
The greatest challenge any Christian will face is not in the getting started. Even with all the difficulty of coming to faith, even with the courage required to confess faith publicly and to be baptized into Jesus, the harder part is to keep going. Temptations and failure and fatigue knock believers down. Often it is hard to get back up.
Perhaps that’s why the Bible compares the Christian life, not to a sprint, but to a marathon: “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1). The implication is that it will be difficult to keep going. It was for those early Christians being knocked down by persecution that would eventually kill some of them. Perseverance was necessary. It still is.
Part of the good news, though, is that in this race there is no single winner. All who finish win a prize that outlasts olive laurels and even gold medals. Finishing is everything. As the apostle Paul put it, “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race” (Acts 20:24).
“If only I may finish.” Whatever knocks you down, you can still finish. And, in this race, finishing is winning.