So the LORD gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their forefathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. The LORD gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their forefathers. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the LORD handed all their enemies over to them. Not one of all the LORD’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled. (Joshua 21:43-45 NIV)
The life of a Jesus-follower is more like a marathon than a sprint. To be the champion, endurance is required. But is perseverance enough to have a good outcome? Running to win should be our aim. Winners have an unquenchable desire for what’s on the other side of the finish line.
To urge on his fellow Christians, the Apostle Paul used the analogy of a race:
But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. (Philippians 3:13b-15a)
By straining toward what is ahead, Paul had more in mind than the finish line. He knew well, for those who wore the victor’s crown, what was beyond the race’s end. Mature Christians should have the same vision. What awaits the overcomer propels them to feats of glory.
In baseball, runners to first base are taught “On a ground ball, run through the bag rather than to the bag.” Running “to” naturally slows us down. What lies beyond is critical to any achievement. Running simply to cross the finish line is insufficient. Our eyes should be on the prize.
Among God’s promises to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 28:1-14 were these: “You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country… you will always be the top, never at the bottom.” (28:3, 13). The condition for the blessings was if they carefully followed all the Lord’s commands (28:1).
After forty years of wandering in the wilderness, Israel’s finish line was not crossing the Jordan River or entering into Canaan, though these were milestones. The goal was driving the Amorites and all the other “ites” out.
In horse-racing, “the sport of kings”, nothing is won a furlong or a sixteenth-pole from the finish. To presumptuously think victory is secure before we cross the wire is foolish. In the immortal words of Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over til it’s over.”
Not until we have arrived at the other side of foretold last days’ events, do we rest. Until we have endured Satan’s rage, witnessed this age’s final battle, until the beast and his false prophet are cast into the lake of fire, until Satan is bound for a thousand years and King Jesus sits on the throne, will we receive a reward (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:9). It is after, not before, for a reason. Salvation is not from the race, but through it to the other side.
Envision this: On the other side of our finish line is the fulfillment of every promise for the Millennium–or for heaven–that’s in the Bible.
So, the next time the going gets tough, consider Jesus: Like our Lord, look beyond your cross (the “it is finished” line) and see your crown (Hebrews 12:2).