“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:7-8
     John Stephen Akhwari represented Tanzania in the marathon at the 1968 Summer Olympic Games held in Mexico City. He was a very accomplished runner. The year prior to the Olympics he finished first in the African Marathon Championships. However, even though Tanzania contains Africa’s highest mountain, Akhwari had never trained at high attitudes in his home country. Consequently, while competing in the marathon at Mexico City, he experienced leg cramps due to the high altitude of that region. To make matters worse, at the 19-kilometer point of the 42-kilometer race, two runners stumbled into him, knocking him to the ground. He dislocated his knee joint and hurt his shoulder when he fell onto the pavement. But he kept on running, finishing last among the 57 competitors who completed the race (75 had started). The winner of the marathon, Mamo Wolde of Ethiopia finished in 2:20:26. Akhwari finished in 3:25:27. As he finally crossed the finish line, a cheer came from the thousand people still left in the stadium. Later during an interview, a reporter asked why he continued running when he was hurt and could have done more damage to his leg. Akhwari replied, "My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race, they sent me 5,000 miles to finish it."
     In many ways our Christian faith is like a marathon. It is not a sprint; but a lifelong race of following Jesus Christ. There will be times when we run downhill as our life goes smoothly and it is filled with rich blessings. At other times, we will feel like we are running uphill because following Jesus as our Savior will be a hard and difficult task. And there may be instances where we are bumped and bruised by others as well as situations where we are hurt, injured or fighting a disease and we may feel like giving up. But as God’s people, we are not sent into this world to start our race, we are sent to finish it.
     As Paul neared the end of his life, he was able to proclaim, “I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” That is also our goal. In a world where only the first three runners win a (gold, silver or bronze) medal, Paul reminds you that everyone who finishes their race for Jesus Christ will receive a “crown of righteousness” that will never fade away. So no matter how far along you are in your marathon of faith, keep on running.
In Christ’s love,
Pastor Steve