Personal Growth
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To Finish Strong, Choose Your Focus

Some suggest that John Stephen Akhwari of Tanzania has the honor of the greatest last place finish in Olympic history.

Akhwari was a world-class distance runner in the 1960’s and 70’s. He was about 19 km into the Olympic Marathon in Mexico City when there was some jostling among the runners. Akhwari hit the pavement hard—injuring his shoulder and apparently dislocating his knee. But he would not stop. With a mix of walking and a slow limping run, he finished last among the 57 competitors who completed the race, well over an hour after the winner. When interviewed later and asked why he had ignored the advice to pull out of the race, Akhwari said, “My country did not send me 10,000 miles just to start the race; they sent me to finish the race” (Sandy Grant 3 August, 2012 “Finish the Race“).

Finishing a marathon is never easy—especially under difficult circumstances.

(Honestly, I don’t know this for a fact; I have never run a marathon. I am the founding member of RA, Runners Anonymous. If you ever get the urge to run, call me and I will talk you out of it.)

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Life is a marathon. Someone has said, “It is so everlastingly daily. It is fraught with wearying circumstances, but we also have to deal with what Peterson calls “spiritual fat” and “parasitic sins” (Hebrews 12:1, The Message paraphrase). So here we are in this race of life jostled around by circumstances, thrown to the pavement by spiritual lethargy, and the parasitic sins just keep sucking the life out of us.

So are you going to quit? Or will you finish?

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross,scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. – Hebrews 12:1-3, NIV

Jesus did not leave the palaces of Heaven and endure the torture of the cross just so we could start the race. He did all that and now lives in me because He means for me to finish the race.

Winners keep their eyes on the finish line. Jesus is the finish line. I will not keep my eyes on the injuries; I will not focus on the pain; I will not settle for spiritual laziness; I will not give in to parasitic sins. I may stumble but I will never, never quit!

“It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). And because of that I have decided, “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat” (Theodore Roosevelt).

Please join me and let’s finish the race—together, hand-in-hand.

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I am a Carrollton native and graduate of Carrollton High and Atlanta Christian College. After 46 years, Linda, the love of my life, and I moved back to Carrollton to join the Southern Hills Christian Church team where my son Shannon is lead pastor. I have two sons, Shannon and Brandon, one daughter, Kristen Ebensberger, and 11 grandchildren.

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