Summary: Live in the present with no restriction so that you can have a past with no regrets as you long for a future where you will never be rejected.
Rev. Brian Bill
40 years ago, God led several people to start PBC. A lot of other things happened in 1968 like the Olympics that were held in Mexico City. It’s not the easiest place to have the Olympics because of the terrible pollution and the high altitude. When we lived there it took us a long time to get used to the thin and dirty air.
During the 26-mile marathon, the runner from Tanzania, John Stephen Akhwari, took a bad fall in which he dislocated his shoulder and tore a hole in his knee midway through the race. By the time he approached the finish line, nearly two hours after the winner from Ethiopia, the official timekeepers had put away their watches and the awards ceremony was already under way. When the organizers were told there was still one runner laboring toward the finish line, however, the news was broadcast on local radio and fans returned to cheer him on. The stadium lights were turned back on, and Akhwari ran the last lap to resounding applause. Bloodied and bandaged, he hobbled around the track, crossed the finish line, and collapsed. When a reporter asked him why he did not quit the race, he replied, “My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race, they sent me 5,000 miles to finish it.”
This is one of the best examples of endurance in Olympic history. Altogether, 75 highly-trained runners started this race and 18 of them never finished it. When Akhwari could have quit, he kept going, determined to cross the finish line. Friends, God is looking for faithful finishers today. It doesn’t matter if you’ve fallen. Or if you’re running slow. God wants you to finish. I’m grieved when I hear of believers bailing on their faith. Too many have decided that the life of faith is too difficult and have deserted. While some have left the church there are still others who are in church but have been drifting for decades.
In our New Testament reading for this week, Jesus explained in Luke 8:13-14 that some who start well never make it to the finish: “Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for awhile, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among the thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures and they do not mature.” Hard times cause some followers to fold and good times cause others to choke on their own choices. Paul describes a person like this in 2 Timothy 4:10: “For Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me…”
I want to propose that the Christian life is not a sprint but a marathon. It’s relatively easy to start strong but it’s a challenge to be a faithful finisher. Howard Hendricks has said that of the approximately 100 detailed biographies in the Bible, about two-thirds of these men and women ended poorly. The reason I chose this topic as part of our parenting series called “Generation Next” is because if we’re serious about passing along our faith to the next generation then we better be determined to finish faithfully ourselves. As parents we must persevere. Let me summarize what we’ve learned so far (see www.pontiacbible.org for other sermons in this series):
* Moms and grandmas can be spiritual mentors to children with or without the help of a dad. Our topic next week will be on the critical role of fathers in a message entitled “Disciplemaking Dads.”
* Parenting is not only hard work; it is heart work.
* God wants parents to practice loving truth and truthful love.
* Before passing on, make sure you pass it on by leaving a legacy.
Please turn in your Bibles to 2 Timothy 4:6-8. Paul is in prison and is on the last lap of his life. He’s finishing his life with a sprint across the finish line and now jogs back to Timothy to cheer him on so he too finishes strong. In his closing words to timid Timothy he wants to make sure that his understudy finishes strong. Look at verse 5 first: “But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” After making this appeal to Timothy he tells his own testimony in verses 6-8: “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day-and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”