It was the end of the day at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics - only a few thousand spectators were in the stadium as the last of the marathon runners were carried off in exhaustion to the first-aid stations. More than an hour earlier and Ethiopian runner had been the first to cross the finish line in this grueling 26-mile event. As the remaining spectators prepared to leave, they were stopped by the sound of sirens going off and policemen blowing whistles. There, entering the stadium came a lone figure wearing the colors of Tanzania - his name was John Akhwari. He was the last man to finish the marathon.
His leg was bloodied and bandaged, and he grimaced with each step. He had severely injured his knee in a fall, but painfully, he hobbled around the 400-meter track. The spectators who were still there just got to their feet and applauded as if the were the winner. After he crossed the finish line in excruciating pain, he was asked why he hadn't quit when he had no chance of winning a medal. His answer: "My country did not send me 7,000 miles away to start the race. They sent me 7,000 miles to finish it."
Well, I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "Finishing Your Race."
When God wanted to give us a mental picture of our life and our service for Him, He used an Olympic image - running a race. And you've been running the race He set out for you - but you've been hurt - you're running with pain - you've been disappointed - you're bloodied and bandaged. And you may be tempted to drop out of the race. But you haven't reached the finish line yet.
The great Apostle Paul must have felt that way many times. But we have this report from the finish line - it's in our word for today from the Word of God in 2 Timothy 4:5-8. He starts out addressing his next generation leader, Timothy - who's been hammered, discouraged, and considering quitting. "Keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. For I am already being poured out like a drink offering..." Just imagine an Olympic runner, collapsing as he crosses the finish line, having given all he had to give in the race. "I have fought the good fight, I have kept the faith, I have finished the race. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord...will award to me."
The problem with too many of us is that we run hard for a while - but we quit before the end of the race - when Jesus has called us to be that lone runner who knows he or she was put here to finish the race, no matter how painful it is. Maybe you're one of those exhausted runners on Team Jesus who says, "Look, I served my time, I worked very hard for the cause - I'll just step aside and let others do the running now." Listen - in the service of Jesus Christ, there is no such thing as early retirement! God may change your assignment, but He'll never leave you without one until the day you see Him!
Maybe you've been tempted to quit an assignment God has given you - and He's coming to you right now saying, "Finish the race." Run with everything you've got, not halfheartedly. Remember, He gave everything He had in His race to rescue you - and even though He was beaten and bloody, Jesus didn't quit until He had crossed the finish line. Run the whole race - He'll be waiting to embrace you as you cross that finish line for Him.