When I first made it round the 26.2 miles of a marathon it took me well over four hours. At that time Eliud Kipchoge had not even been born, but he has just achieved the amazing feat of breaking the two-hour barrier, an event as momentous as Roger Bannister’s breaking the four-minute mile back in 1954. Kipchoge ran more than twice as fast as me!
But what really matters in a marathon (for most of us, anyway) is simply getting to the end of the course. It’s no use running the first half at a fantastic speed and then grinding to a halt. You have to get to the end. It’s the same with the Christian life. Starting well is one thing, but persevering, keeping going when you’re tired, sticking at it mile after mile, year after year, until the very end, is what matters.
Paul often used athletic metaphors in his writings (the original marathon was in 490BC). It wasn’t speed or power that he sought but endurance: “I consider my life worth nothing to me if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” [Acts 20]
I’m often encouraged by folk who have been doing their best to live as followers of Jesus for decades and still keep on going. They may not be able to do what they used to, they may go ever more slowly, but they keep praying, keep trusting in God, keep serving the Lord as best they can. One day they will cross their finish line and all heaven will cheer and welcome them home. Let’s all keep on going!