It was a hot Sunday afternoon in Mexico City. 74 men set out to run the marathon in the 1968 Olympic Games. 57 of them finished the race. Mamo Wolde of Ethiopia was the winner, yet the most remembered runner from that race was the last one to cross the finish line.

John Stephen Akjwari of Tanzania began the race with high hopes, but those hopes were dashed when he collided with another runner and fell violently to the pavement. Bleeding badly, with a dislocated knee, Akjwari continued the race. He trotted, stumbled, walked and hobbled his way to the stadium, then ran as best he could the final yards.

Akjwari finished almost an hour after Wolde. What drove him to continue running despite his pain and the futility of the effort? Akjwari stated simply: "My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start this race. They sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race."

In almost every endeavor of life, it's easier to start than it is to finish. Finishing requires perseverance. Finishing requires dedication. Finishing requires a willingness to continue on, even when things are difficult.

The apostle Paul, writing to his close friend Timothy from a Roman jail cell, penned these words: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7). Like Akjwari, Paul had done more than begin the race; he had pressed on to the finish line. Because of that, he could go on to say, "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" (2 Timothy 4:8).

When the Christian life gets hard, will we press on? Will we remember that we were called to finish the race, not just start it? If so, then there's a winner's crown waiting for us, just like there was for Paul.

Don't stop. Keep going. All the way to the finish line.

Will we remember that we were called to finish the race, not just start it?
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