In “The Greatest Finish Fails in Sports History,” Andrew Daniels relates numerous stories of runners, cyclists, and ballplayers who celebrated their victory too early, only to lose.
In the men’s 800 meters at the 2014 Shanghai Diamond League meet, Algeria’s Taoufik Makhloufi stuck out his arms and his tongue just before crossing the finish line and watched his first-place finish get usurped by Kenyan Robert Biwott.
In 2015, The University of Oregon’s Tanguy Pepiot was set to win the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 2015 Pepsi Team Invitational. However, when he urged the crowd at Hayward Field to cheer him on, he slowed down just enough for The University of Washington’s Meron Simon to sprint past him in the final meters and snatch a last-second win.
Then at the 2018 European Championships in Germany, Israeli athlete Lonah Chemtai Salpeter, thought she had secured a silver medal in the 5,000 meters so she put her arms up in jubilation and slowed down, only to discover she had one more lap to go. The loss of momentum caused her to take fourth—edging her out of podium position.
Showboating, being overconfident, or losing focus–all of these can spell disaster in running.
My cross country coach, Carl Short, taught me in High School, when you come around the final turn “kick” as hard as you can and run through, not to, the finish line.
For the past few weeks, we’ve highlighted words from David Jeremiah’s book Forward, that encapsulate 10 spiritual concepts based on the apostle Paul’s affirmation in Phil 3:13-14. “I”m 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.”
“Finish,” is not only the word of the week but ought to be our single-minded goal every day as we run the Christian race.
In his final exhortation to the Colossian brethren, Paul wrote, “Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord” (Col.4:17).
Did Paul have a special assignment for Archippus to accomplish? Was he discouraged? Was he in danger of being influenced by Gnosticism that had invaded the church? Was there a personal burden or spiritual challenge that was a threat to finishing his ministry? We don’t know.
The word “complete” is often translated “fulfill.” It speaks to our charge to finish what we’ve begun. To keep going. To accomplish God’s purpose for us and through us. Warren Wiersbe offers this interesting and challenging insight.
“Paul reminded Archippus that his ministry was a gift from God and that he was a steward of God who would one day have to give an account of his work. Since the Lord gave him his ministry the Lord could also help him carry it out in the right way. Ministry is not something we do for God; it is something God does in and through us.”
Jesus was “the greatest finisher” in the Bible or recorded history. His ministry is summed up in this affirmation: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work” (Jn. 4:34). So, he could pray in the shadow of the cross, “I have finished the work which You have given Me to do” (Jn. 17:4). And exclaim with his dying breath, “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30).
In order to finish well, we must stay focused on the finish line. Eliminate distractions. Run with endurance. Overcome obstacles. Possess a high pain threshold. Stay connected to the “what” and “why” of the race itself. Rely on God’s power to strengthen us. And not become overconfident, self-satisfied, or become discouraged by our pace. Just keep running. And remember it’s not over until it’s over.
In addition, David Jeremiah’s counsel may serve to help us all at various stages of our lives.
“Your role may change. Your assignments may evolve and your situation may alter. You may have to make adjustments. Even so, one fact won’t change as long as God leaves you on earth. He has ongoing work for you. There is no expiration date to the principles I’m teaching you from this book. You never retire from the Christian life, and you never drop out of God’s will.”
Since I have stepped back from located work with one church, some people have incorrectly concluded that I’ve retired from preaching. Not so. As I wrote at the beginning of this new chapter in my life, “Don’t Use The R-Word.” As long as I have the mental acuity, the physical stamina, the emotional endurance, and the spiritual strength to preach, I will continue to preach the gospel as long as the brethren see fit to use me.
May we all continue to do what we’re able to do and keep running, so that we may one-day echo Paul’s words, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2Tim. 4:8).
Then, we can cross the finish line. Receive the “crown of righteousness.” And hear the words, “Well done.”–
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman