While my family was stationed in Germany, my oldest girls were just getting to the age to compete in sports and learn about competition in general. In Germany, the only sport readily available for …
While my family was stationed in Germany, my oldest girls were just getting to the age to compete in sports and learn about competition in general. In Germany, the only sport readily available for our children was soccer, which some erroneously call “football.” My wife and I, along with the other American parents, would often get “concerned” looks from our German counterparts as we would urge our daughters to “GET IN THE SCUFFLE” from the sidelines. It was during this time that I taught my oldest daughters the same life lesson that my dad taught me through sports. I sat them down and told them that I wouldn’t ever make them play on a team, but that if they decided to play, they had to see it through to the end of the season.
That was the rule in our house. Nobody was forced to start something, but nobody got to quit what they started. This idea of perseverance has become less popular in our time. Many people can’t see anything through. Just as it gets tough, they quit. They quit on their projects, their jobs, their classes, their obligations, their friends, their spouses, their kids, their parents, their churches, and their you-name-its.
I am compelled to address this business of perseverance because we are told that love, among other things, “always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:7, NIV). That understood, the scripture also says that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Therefore, we can know that God always perseveres. He never quits anything he starts, and he never quits on us. That said, he also doesn’t reward those who quit on him.
When tempted by the devil in the wilderness, Jesus said that his food, “was to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work” (John 4:34). Christ persevered clear to the cross and cried out “it is finished” (John 19:30) as he died for us. Jesus showed us what he meant by “persevere.” If we would follow him, he expects that we will go the distance for him just as he went the distance for us.
The Apostle Paul compares our following Christ to a race. He tells us to “run” that we may obtain the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24). Paul would say that his only aim “was to finish the race” and complete the task that Christ had given him, which was to “testify to the good news of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24). Paul said that we compete for an imperishable crown (1 Corinthians 9:25). If there is a crown to be had, shouldn’t we keep our eye on the prize and finish our race?
In my 20s, I was able to learn a few things about running a race that I was unable to learn in my school years. The first was that the race has only just begun when it gets difficult. We have a natural tendency to quit when we find ourselves in pain and gasping for oxygen, but one can still run, even in pain and gasping for oxygen. The second is that we have a perverse inclination to slow down as we see the finish line. What I would have us understand by these two observations is that no one will finish the race that God calls them to without conquering their own natural inclinations.
This is exactly what the Lord Jesus calls us to do by his good grace. We must conquer. In each of the Lord’s addresses to one of the churches in the book of Revelation, he tells them that the prize will go “to the one who conquers.” It is the one who conquers that will, among other things, eat from the tree of life, not be hurt by the second death which is eternal separation from God, receive their true name from the only one who knows them truly, enjoy the morning star who is Christ, be recognized before the father and his angels, possess the name of God and a place in the New Jerusalem, and partake in the very rule and reign of Christ himself. This is the prize we run for.
Considering that God has held out such a great prize to those who finish the race, why would we ever slow down with the finish line in sight? Consider that our cemetery isn’t the only “Crown Hill” in our nation. Why are so many named “Crown Hill?” It is because you are buried there in the hope that you have won your crown.
May I just encourage you? Don’t quit. Finish your race strong, and lay hold of the crown God has for you.
(Shane Legler is pastor at Garland Community Church of God.)