It was a cool evening in Mexico City, Mexico, over an hour after the top three marathon runners crossed the finish line at the 1968 Olympic Games. The sun had set, and the over fifty-thousand-seat Olympic stadium was now emptying out. By all indications, the race was over. However, while packing up his equipment, one of the sports reporters covering the event heard some commotion outside the arena. Surprisingly, a runner from the country of Tanzania was still making his way toward the stadium. The reporter hurriedly unpacked his gear and began to videotape what he would long remember as a defining moment in his Olympic filming career.
This lone competitor had obviously experienced some setbacks during the course of this race of over twenty-six miles (approximately forty-two kilometers). One of his knees was bandaged and his gait showed signs of strain; yet he was determined to make it to the end. As he jogged, stopped, walked, and picked up the pace again, spectators took note and began to run alongside of him and cheer. As he entered the stadium for his final lap, what was left of a thinning crowd in the stands rose to their feet to cheer him on to the finish line, which he finally crossed—exhausted but victorious.
This athlete did not win a gold, a silver, or a bronze Olympic medal that day. As a matter of fact, he finished last. However, afterward it was written: “Today we have seen a young African runner who symbolizes the finest in the human spirit…a performance that gives meaning to the word ‘courage.’ ”
Twelve years later, the sports reporter was privileged to meet this athlete. He said to him, “It is such an honor to meet you, because you’ve encouraged so many people with your talent and dedication and your ability to endure. But you didn’t have to continue the race. Why did you do it?” Stunned, the runner responded with, “Sir, I do not think you understand. My country did not send me five thousand miles to start the race. They sent me five thousand miles to finish the race.”
This man’s course was over twenty-six miles long, and along the way he had encountered obstacles that hindered him from receiving recognition as an Olympic medalist. Nonetheless, he stayed motivated to finish the race because of his devotion to his country, which had sent him there. He finished what he came to do. As born-again sons of God, we too want to finish our race, our course. We want to run with endurance “the race that is set before us.”
Hebrews 12:1 and 2:
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses [listed in Hebrews 11], let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience [endurance] the race [course] that is set before us,
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Our “course” is in service to God Almighty, Who paid the price of His dear Son, Jesus Christ, for our salvation. We were born again to serve God, and we have the privilege to do so all our lives. What motivates us to stay the course, to finish the race? Our greatest motivation to keep running is the hope God has given us of His Son coming back to gather us together with him. We have the hope of Christ’s return. Having that understanding from God’s Word encourages us to faithfully run the race “mile after mile.” The Hope is what anchors our soul in this course of life as a believer (Hebrews 6:19 and 20). We just do not quit in our service to God.
To build genuine motivation for running our race and finishing the course, we will focus on two sections of scripture in the Church Epistles that specifically address the order of events for the first part of the return of Christ, when he comes to gather the Church of the Body. This understanding will not only bring us true comfort about our future, but it will also help build endurance in our service until the day we see our lord face-to-face.
The Bible teaches that there are two parts to Christ’s return. The first part is his return for the Church, the Body of Christ. This affects only those born again in the Grace Administration—from the day of Pentecost until the day Christ returns. The second part to Christ’s coming affects all others; it is his return with the Church for the resurrections of the just and the unjust (see Are the Dead Alive Now? pages 17-25). We will focus on the part that affects us directly—Christ’s return for the Church—which is referred to in God’s Word as “our gathering together unto him.”…
This is an excerpt from the July/August 2017 issue of The Way Magazine.
Copyright© 2017 by The Way International. All rights reserved.
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