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Crossing the Finish Line

When the doctor entered the examination room, I told him, “I apologize for wasting your time with a sore throat, congestion, and flu-like symptoms. I never go to the doctor with just the flu. But I am running a marathon in two days. Can you help me?” He asked, “What marathon?” I responded, “Baystate in Lowell.” He explained that he ran the same marathon a few years ago. He then assured me I would be fine if I had plenty of rest and fluids. But I can’t sleep if I am swallowing razor blades every night.

While standing at the start line on the day of the marathon, I wondered what it would be like to be stupid enough to run a marathon with the flu. I was just curious. Well, I got my answer. At mile 23, my body crashed a few miles before the finish line. I had no energy left. I felt done.

So here is my faith question. I love running. And I believe in training and coaching, and I work hard. What do you do when you get a flu? What do you do when you give it your all, and out of nowhere, the wheels fall off?

I was in a doctorate program, and I loved it. I believe it was a great fit for me. I worked hard, got excellent grades, and passed the comprehensive exams. But what do you do when one of the readers does not like the direction of your dissertation and you get tossed out of the program? What do you do when the wheels fall off? Paul, in his letter, tells us to have hope. Hope is when a situation is totally out of your hands, and you need God.

At mile 23, when my body was done, my running buddies, Dr. Mark and Br. Miggo, stepped off the sidewalk and ran with me. They got me to the finish line. I ran the marathon in 3 hours and 55 minutes. I did a sub 4-hour marathon-not too bad for a sick, old guy. But it took three things to do it. I loved running. I believed in the training and coaching and needed my friends.

That is precisely what Paul is telling us. We need three parts to the spiritual life: We need to love, believe, and work hard, but that is not enough. We need hope because there are times when the wheels fall off, and the situation is entirely out of our hands. For Paul, it is not about crossing the finish line of life. It is about crossing the finish line with Christ. And he is at our side at the end because we needed Him. 

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