One of the greatest moments in Olympic history belongs to a British sprinter named Derek Redmond. Despite smashing national records and winning gold medals in the World Championships and Commonwealth Games, Derek faced setback after setback due to injury. In the 1988 Olympics, he was even forced to withdraw just ten minutes before his race due to an injured Achilles tendon.
So when he stepped onto the track for the 400 meters in Barcelona in 1992, he did so with one goal: he had to win a medal. At first, it seemed like that’s exactly what was going to happen. But halfway to the finish line, the unthinkable happened: his hamstring snapped, and Derek fell to the ground in pain. As he watched the other runners flash past him, he knew his dream was shattered. But still, he was determined to finish his race. So, he waved away the medics and began to hop toward the finish line alone. Finally, his father joined him, giving him the support he needed to finish the race.
The apostle Paul knew a thing or two about finishing races. As he neared the end of his life, he told his beloved friend Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7 NIV). Through incredible setbacks — shipwrecks, imprisonment, public beatings — Paul persevered in his mission to spread the gospel of his Lord. But like Derek Redmond, he didn’t finish his race alone. Later in the same chapter, he tells Timothy: “But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed” (2 Timothy 4: 17 NIV).
When we face setbacks in our own race of faith, we should never forget that we do not run alone. We run with Christ, following in his footsteps toward a finish line that carries a victory far greater than any we could ever dream of achieving on our own: the perfect, eternal completion of his redemptive work in us and in the world. Just like Jim Redmond, all along the way he graciously supports, encourages, and cheers us on with pride and love of a father, as we fight to finish well.
I’m Joseph Tkach, speaking of LIFE.