By Robert Halsey Pine
“Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one. So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NRSV).
In my life I have participated in a variety of sport and recreation. I have been on championship teams and I have been an individual champion in a particular sport. I have also experienced loss and defeat in team and individual sport. There are two activities in which I have participated that have meant the most to me. They are mountaineering and marathon running.
On the level that I have participated in these two, the measure of success has been to finish what was started. Success in these has not been to be the fastest or first. It has been to finish. I have run four marathons in my life and to be able to complete the twenty-six and two- tenths miles each time was a victory for me. After much encouragement from my brother to rehabilitate myself following surgery for the removal of a brain tumor, I climbed and summited the highest peak in the Rocky Mountains just eleven months after my surgery. Without any competition this was still a victory for me; I finished.
Our spiritual journey is a lot like these activities where the winning is in finishing. Getting to the place that we set out for works in these endeavors and it works in the Christian life. We must encourage each other in our Christian journeys. And we must take care that our encouragement of others does not take our focus off of our own journey. We love to give advice and directions to others. Sometimes we don’t practice what we preach.
We can all be winners. We can all come in first. All that we have to do is finish. When we’ve stopped our run and our climb, we need to be sure that we’re at the finish line and the peak. In reaching that point we have earned the imperishable wreath—the kingdom of God.
Robert Halsey Pine was born at Newark, Ohio in 1943. He is a graduate of Northeastern University and completed the program of Theological Education by Extension: Education for Ministry, School of Theology, the University of the South.