Saturday, March 16, 2019

Sprinting to the Finish Line - For the Glory of God

Like many people, I occasionally watch a movie and find that it has something to say which speaks to my life and to the messages God is working into my soul.  The characters, the plot, the themes, or sometimes even just a random event suddenly give me a reason to pause and reflect.  This should not surprise me because most good writers are skilled at connecting story lines to human experiences in a way that elicits a human response.   But it often does surprise me, especially when it hits really close to home.

I recently watched the end of a movie, and found myself reflecting on it in this way.  Secretariat is a nice story about a horse which does amazing things because the people who take responsibility for him understand how to work with him.  He comes back from long odds, under the care of a large team of people, to win the Kentucky Derby by the longest margin of victory ever achieved.  In watching this movie and reflecting on deeper things, it is easy to focus on the vision of the owner, the patience of the trainer, or the skill of the rider, all worthy of discussion in the bigger picture of ministry and the Kingdom and the potential which God puts deep into the life of every believer.  (Moses prayer in Numbers 11:29 did actually come to pass).  But as I sat and thought about the ending of the movie, my heart went somewhere completely different: the brutal finality of the outcome of the race and the certainty of the victory coming to pass, starting long before the finish line was crossed.  Starting on the back stretch of a long and close race, he starts sprinting and never slows down, pulling further and further ahead, winning by an incredible 31 lengths.

As I walked away from the movie and followed along where God directed my thinking, I pondered my own life.  As a 57 year old empty-nester, I am definitely past the chaos/exhaustion/auto-pilot time in life, where it often felt like a victory just being still in the game.  I am in that delightful time of life when time feels both plentiful and in short supply at the same time.  I do have discretionary time, but I don't know for how long.  I could be approaching the finish line, or just rounding the back corner.  Only God knows, and that is OK.  What I do know is that I like the way Secretariat finished that race.

He broke from the adversaries in a way that was definitive and challenging.  He let the rider direct him at an unprecedented pace because he trusted the rider -  they had a relationship, and a history together.  As the race progressed, it became less about the adversaries and more about the finish line, and getting there in a manner which was in keeping with the race they had run in breaking from the pack.  Together, they raced at full speed all the way to the finish line, producing results never approached, before or since.

As I sat and reflected on that movie, I realized that I want to finish my race like Secretariat did.  I want to break from the enemy in a way that keeps me from running as one who runs with an enemy nipping at my heels.  I know that the enemy is prowling around like a lion, waiting at any moment to pounce on me, to devour me.  I know that the enemy lurks around, looking for a chance to shoot an arrow straight into my soul.  I know that I need to remain sober minded and aware.  But I want God to fill my heart and direct my paths in such a way that I can run at full speed, unencumbered by the scheming of the enemy.

I want to run as one who is focused on the finish line, not looking back at the adversaries but pressing ahead, straining with every fiber of my being to finish well.  I want to sprint at full tilt, not because the outcome of my life is in doubt, but because I want to let the rider direct my path in a way that crushes the enemy and brings glory to the rider.

Ultimately, as I walked away from that movie, I realized what I really wanted: I want to finish well.  Whether my days are nearing their end, or I still have decades left to walk with Him, I want to finish well.  I want to break from the enemy.  I want to keep sprinting, knowing that my victory in Jesus is secure.  I want to cross the finish line with those words "well done my good and faithful servant".  And I want to finish, knowing that it was all for His glory and the unfolding of His plans in His time.  I want to sprint to the finish line, with everything I've got, until He says my race is over and I get to enter into His rest which is final and definitive and eternal.

I enjoy many of the things which are associated with the golden years: playing golf with my children, drinking coffee on the couch in my pajamas at noon just because I can, conversations that can linger because I don't have a crush of agenda waiting for me.  I enjoy these things, not because I have earned them, or because they somehow fill an empty place in my soul.  I enjoy them because they are a gift from the Lord, an opportunity to slow down and follow my priorities and enjoy the life which God has crafted for me.

But, when I am honest with myself, I realize that these activities are not all that I want for the last chapter of my life.  I want to enjoy them as the icing of my last years, and not the cake itself.  I want to enjoy them as a gift from the Lord in the context of His calling and purposes still occupying my life and thoughts.  I want to keep sprinting, all the way to the finish line, and not coast because the outcome is certain.  I want to sprint, not because I have to in order to secure some outcome or fill some need.  I want to sprint solely because I enjoy running with the Lord, and staying tuned into His plans for my life.

O Lord, help me to finish well.   Help me to run, guided only by Your presence.  Help me to run focused only on the finish line and arriving there together.  Like Secretariat, whose heart was twice as large as the average horse, enlarge my heart so that I can run with a capacity that reflects your incredibleness.  Help me to sprint, straining forward with every fiber of my being, knowing that You created me to sprint.   And help me to sprint to the finish line without vanity or pride.   Sola Deo Gloria.

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