Running the Race and Finishing Well

Peninsula Community Church
Running the Christian Race
December 30, 2012

As we come to the end of another year, I have spent the last couple of days looking back at this year and all that has been accomplished. I have also spent these days in thinking about my goals and desires for 2013.

As I look back at this year, I realize that we can rejoice in so many accomplishments that have been achieved here at PCC. I look at people’s lives that have been touched and blessed this year. I thought about the ministries we have and how they have reached so many people for Christ. I thought about this year’s VBS where kids from around the community joined us for a week of fun and biblical focus. I thought about how the VBS participants were able to bless Renee Bach and Serving His Children with a check for $1500. I look back at the Harvest Party where we had approximately 250 people visit the church for free hotdogs, sodas, chips and desert as well as fun games and bounce houses. I thought of the parade where we won first place in the noncommercial float category but more than that we had a presence in the community and had many ask questions about the float which led to sharing our faith with others.

I thought about Clayton sharing the Gideon’s message and the nearly $2000 we received in the offering which was one of the largest offerings given by a church in the DelMarVA region in several years. I also thought about the news I received that the offering we gave helped the Gideon Ministry in distributing nearly 4000 bibles to Salisbury University, the FCA ministry and the prison at Georgetown at the end of November and early December. I thought about the Christmas program where more that 75% of those attending the event were unchurched or did not have a church home. I looked back at the beginning of 2012 where we were healthy financially, but our cash flow presented issues for us. I am pleased to announce that we now have more than 3 months worth of finances on hand plus another $40,000 in stocks and the anticipation of another large donation coming to us at the beginning of this new year.

While all of this is important, I also thought of the people who have been touched by PCC and God this year. I thought of Penny and her family who lost everything in a fire and yet the church stepped up to donate money, clothing, furniture, and food. I thought of Gerry Wingate who has seen the touch of God on his life and has had years added to his life because a doctor was willing to do one more test. Instead of 29% heart usage they found that he was in reality at 39%, which is huge in relationship to his longevity. I thought of Baby Carter who has survived multiple surgeries before he is three months old and now he is home and growing like a weed. I thought of many others that have been going through difficult times but they have seen God minister grace to them. I thought of Jim Koons, Arlene Marvel, Phillip Dypsky, Sandy Brooks, Bob Zabit and others who have been battling physical issues but sense the presence of God in their lives in new ways. I thought of Michelle whose doctor believes her MS is in remission and therefore does not have to take her weekly medication which caused her to miss a day of her life because of the drastic side effects. I thought of so many who have come to PCC who once thought they would never attend another church because of the failures of pastors and the leadership of their previous churches.

We have so much to be thankful for. We are a blessed church. While He has done so much for us we are standing on the threshold of a new year which means we can look forward to new and exciting things that God will do in and through us. I do not know what is in store for us but I know that He will be with us and He will do great things in us. While we look back at the exciting things that have occurred this past year, we cannot live in the past but we must move forward into the future with hope and faith.

Paul understood this when he penned the words found in Philippians 3:12-15. He proclaimed, Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But, one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also.

In Philippians 3:3-7, Paul states that he had so much to brag about and so much that he could hang his hat on but he counted all of those successes as rubbish compared to what fellowship with Christ meant to him. His heritage, his accomplishments, and his friendships were not as critical to him as his ongoing need to understand Christ. He also understood that his past successes were just that, past successes. He could not live on the laurels of the past but always needed new adventures and growth in Christ.

In the passage before us today, Paul uses the analogy of an athlete and specifically a runner. Throughout my life, I have always admired marathoners and long distance runners. They have a stamina and patience that is amazing. Almost every day they are running so that they can build their strength and their ability to run the entire race. It was amazing to me to learn that most people who participate in marathons do so not to win the race but to simply finish. In essence, they win when they finish the race. For most marathoners, their competition is not just the other runners but the greatest competition is often within themselves.

I am not sure that you know this but we have a 5ker here at PCC, Trina Coyle. She has already completed a couple of races. I would like to invite her up here for a moment so that I can ask her a couple of questions.
Why did you decide to run a 5k?
How many hours a week do you run?
How often do you increase the distance you run?
How many miles do you run at this stage?
Why do you enter a marathon? Is it to win? Is it the satisfaction of finishing the race?
How often do you feel like giving up? What motivates you to keep going?
When you are running a race, are there times that you look back? Why would you do that? Why is it important to keep your eyes on the road ahead of you?

Thank you Trina. As we think about running a race, there are several lessons for us to consider.

The first of these is you can’t finish a race you have not entered. God is calling us to get into the race. He alludes to the idea of racing in a number of passages of scripture. The problem is that there has never been a race won from the sidelines. God is calling us to get into the race so that when our lives are over we can echo the words Paul wrote to Timothy. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up 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 loved his appearing (2 Timothy 4:6-8).

We enter the race when we accept Christ as our personal Savior, but even after accepting Christ as our Savior we can still sit back and watch others run the race. When this happens, we can be bored and never get to experience the success of running the race. You have to be in the race to enjoy the benefits of preparing for the race.

The second lesson is a marathoner’s attitude is critical to finishing a race. Runners have an attitude that is focused and they are determined. They remain focused on the finish line. You do not find a runner focusing on what is behind them as this will distract them from the goal of finishing the race. As a runner, you must watch for pot holds, the other runners, the inclines and bends in the road. If you don’t, you will be susceptible to failure and less than desirable outcomes. Paul again gives us some insight into the life of a runner when he says, every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest preaching to others I myself should be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). Paul is saying that when we run this race we do not run without a goal in mind. We do not run in circles but we always have the goal in mind.

The third lesson is runners always put the time in that is required to prepare to finish the race. Pure marathoners don’t just jog for exercise; they’re into it all the way. They read magazines about running; they set goals for themselves; they train and push themselves toward those goals. They watch their diet. None of these things are easy in themselves but they are important. We too have the necessary tools to finish the race. We have the Bible which gives us His plan. We can pray to seek His advice. We can memorize Scripture that will encourage us and challenge us. We can increase our fellowship with other believers who will encourage us in our growth. To win the spiritual race we must implement the tools available to us or else we will fall short of the goal of finishing the race. We must also lay aside the weights and the sin that cause us to not finish the race. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2).

If you are not in the race are you ready to join? Are you ready to do what it takes to finish the race? It is your choice. As you make the choice, God will give you the strength you need.

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