I spend a few vigorous minutes on my treadmill, and I feel like I'm ready to star in a Bowflex commercial. Then I watched athletes running the marathon at the Olympics. I need a few more minutes on the treadmill.

I could almost feel the pain as those marathoners pushed to finish those last grueling miles. I went for more lemonade. In the lead was a 38-year-old Romanian woman named Constantina Tomescu-Dita. They said she had to drop out of this event the last time. That made me want to root for her. She also would be the oldest woman ever to win the gold in the marathon. Now I had to be in her corner.

She looked exhausted, but she picked up her pace as she approached her goal - the Beijing Olympic Stadium. As she entered the stadium before all the other runners, tens of thousands of spectators burst into a thunderous ovation. Once she crossed the finish line, she found the reserves to make a thrilling victory lap, waving to the cheering crowds. Some of those who had started this race with her 26 miles back didn't make it. And no one came even close to making it in the time she did. I've got to admit - it was exhilarating to watch.

And it made me think of the race I'm trying to run. Not for Olympic gold. For something better. Six words. "Well done, good and faithful servant." Spoken by Jesus at the finish line of my life.

I love the fact that life isn't random. There's a "race marked out for us" by the One who created us (Hebrews 12:2). Some of the last words the Apostle Paul ever wrote proclaimed: "I have finished the race...now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness (God's gold), which the Lord...will award to me on the day" (2 Timothy 4:7-8). Jesus waiting at the finish line, proud of me - that's the outcome my heart yearns for more than anything.

At times, I've run for plastic trophies instead of God's gold. Having everyone like me. Being affirmed by those I considered to be a big deal. Receiving the approval of a crowd or an organization. Having people know my name. But it's all so hollow. So temporary. So wrong. "Am I now trying to win the approval of men or of God?...If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ" (Galatians 1:10).

If I get a thunderous ovation, let it be in heaven's stadium from the "great cloud of witnesses" who finished their race victoriously. If there is to be a "medal," let it be from Jesus. It isn't easy or cheap. I'll make some other "judges" unhappy with me along the way. The run will sometimes be grueling. Many will drop out around me. But all I want is to find Jesus at my finish line - applauding, smiling. Because, like David, I "served God's purpose in (my) own generation" and then I "fell asleep" (Acts 13:36).