How will we finish the race?

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When the apostle Paul faced the end of his life, he said to Timothy, who he’d mentored and trained, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2Ti 4:7). 

How will we finish the race? Elsewhere, Paul says, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” (1Co 9:24).

Unfortunately, it seems that finishing well might not be nearly as common as we might hope it’d be. In the July 2016 Eternity magazine, an article by the chairman of the Katoomba men’s convention organising committee captured my attention. At the previous year’s convention, they heard from a man who at “94 years old [is] still serving the Lord Jesus with great enthusiasm. Where many men have slowed down and now spend their days cruising and caravanning, Joe is a tremendous example of what it looks like to keep your spiritual fervour.

The convention planners went looking for another such example for the 2016 convention – the tag line for which was “Crawl. Walk. Run across the finish line.” But here’s the discouraging bit: Though they cast the net wide, asking many pastors and ministers, “Most ministers struggled to think of a single man.” 

For the Christian men among us, how many men can you think of that, on the basis of their Christian walk, you could say “I want to be like him when I’m 70? … or 80?”

In the course of ministry, I’ve visited a number of older people – including in nursing homes. One man stands out. Though constrained to his bed, he wants to give me updates about how the ministry work he was involved in is going. He expresses pastoral concern for others’ spiritual welfare. When I open the Bible and pray, he lights up. But he’s an exception. Sadly, too many – men and women – seem to almost glaze over when it comes to spiritual discussion and prayer.

It’s not uncommon to hear concerns expressed over the lack of commitment demonstrated by many younger people these days. It’s a real issue, and part of a larger trend within society as a whole. But young people aren’t the only ones with commitment issues.

But nor is this a challenge just for older people to take note of. I once heard it said that, who we are when we’re old is a product of who we were when younger. It was particularly said in relation to temperament or character. That “grumpy old man” (or woman!) didn’t just get that way on one particular birthday. Nor did the one who’s generous, and joyful, and a pleasure to be around. But the principle applies equally well at a spiritual level. If we’re spiritually weak in old age, it’s no doubt indicative of the state of our spiritual life when younger. The good news is that we’re never too old for the Spirit to work a miracle is us, if we’ll humbly ask him to.

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