As I’ve stated before, my two football teams are THE Ohio State Buckeyes and The Dallas Cowboys. I wrote back in September 2009 “We will have to wait until January to see how far the Cowboys and the Buckeyes go.” Well, now we know. The Buckeyes won the Big 10 championship and the Rose Bowl. The Dallas Cowboys’ season came to a screeching halt when they showed up in Minnesota to play the Vikings. To all my friends and wife who are Vikings fans; “What a heartache in New Orleans!”
Brett Favre said that his personal goal for the 2009-2010 season was to take the Minnesota Vikings to the Super Bowl in Miami. And he fell short; you could see the look on his face at the end of the NFC Championship game. His goal was to finish strong and complete his goal; which was just as important as how he started out the season.
I know that some would like to believe that it doesn’t really matter if you win or lose; but it does. There has to be a prize we strive for, or why else would be struggle so hard to win and finish strong? In some things it does make a difference if we win or lose. It isn’t enough that Dallas has 5 Super Bowl rings after 8 Super Bowl appearances. At the end of the football season; if you don’t have a ring then it doesn’t mean a thing.
In the world of Hockey, this past weekend it was too warm and the outdoor ice on our Minnesota lakes was too wet to finish the Annual Pond Hockey Tournament. I really don’t think that the participants were content with just signing up; they wanted to play. I told my wife that I’m was glad that I hadn’t signed up to participate; I would have been very disappointed to have trained and then not been able to compete. (Fortunately, I was still able to play this Saturday outdoors on a sheet of refrigerated ice).
No one who trains to run a marathon (especially an Ironman) is content to simply start the race; they all want to finish strong and cross the finish line. Even the Apostle Paul wrote about this idea of competing for a prize; of finishing strong. He said in 1Corinthians 9:24 “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.”
Of course Paul was speaking about things that had eternal value; not just temporal like the Lombardi Trophy. He goes on to say; “25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”
In other words; Paul was saying that how we finish is just as important as how we start out. Paul was saying that he had personal goals to finish strong. Paul writes; “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14)
This was his goal in all he did throughout his walk as a Christian. At the end of his life, just before he was put to death for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, he wrote to one of his young friends who was a pastor; “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. “ Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2Timothy 4:7-8)
My friends, how we finish is just as important as how we start. Don’t quit! Keep going; keep running this race we call “LIFE”. Hang in there! We have so many that are cheering us on and waiting for us at the end.
“As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God's throne. Think of what he went through; how he put up with so much hatred from sinners! So do not let yourselves become discouraged and give up…Lift up your tired hands, then, and strengthen your trembling knees! Keep walking on straight paths, so that the lame foot may not be disabled, but instead be healed. Hebrews 12:1-3, 12-13 GNB)