A few years ago, I ran a marathon – 26.6 miles. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. The last couple of miles were pure agony. I would run a few hundred yards and then walk and then run again. I actually cried from the pain. The only thing that kept me going was the thought of how good it would feel to cross the finish line and be with my family who were waiting there.
In many ways, life is like a marathon. Just like a marathon, the last part is often the hardest. In my years as a pastor, I have had the privilege of serving numerous elderly people in our congregation and our area nursing homes. Often we don’t realize how hard those last miles are.
When I was a boy, there was a man who lived on my newspaper route – good ole Mr. Kutz. Mr. Kutz was a member of our church. He lived to be 104 years old. He was still chopping firewood when he was 90. At his 100th birthday party, Mr. Kutz pulled my dad (his pastor) aside and told him, “Pastor, being 100 is not all it’s cracked up to be.”
Getting older is not all it’s cracked up to be. Our bodies break down. Our knees ache. Our backs hurt. Our feet swell. Our eyesight and hearing fade. It gets harder to remember things. Soon we end up in wheelchairs and nursing homes. We lose our independence. We can no longer drive. People start to treat us differently.
The longer we live, the more funerals we have to attend. The longer we live, the more good-byes we have to say – to our parents, our spouses, our brothers and sisters, our childhood friends. Getting older is not all it’s cracked up to be. The last miles of life’s marathon are often the hardest.
But just like my marathon, what can help us keep going is to remember how good it will feel to cross the finish line. You see, no matter how hard the marathon is, no matter how many times you stumble and fall, you will eventually win the race.
You will win, because Jesus won the victory for you. You could never win life’s marathon on your own. You have stumbled and fallen too many times. You have stumbled into sin. You have stumbled over your anger, over your drinking, over your gossiping. You don’t deserve to win. You don’t deserve the prize to heaven.
Yet the victory is yours because Jesus suffered the punishment of all your anger, your drinking, your gossip – your sins – in your place. With his death and resurrection, he won the victory for you. You don’t have to win the race. You just have to finish. If you finish the race in faith, if you die believing in Jesus, the victory of heaven is yours. Your loved ones who died in Christ will be waiting for you at the finish line.
And the victory celebration of heaven will last forever. Once you cross that finish line, there will be no more aches and pains, no more wheel chairs or nursing homes, no more sin or sorrow. The last miles of the marathon are often the hardest. Getting older is not all it’s cracked up to be. So keep your eyes focused on the finish line. Think about how good it will feel to cross that line and to see your loved ones there. At the finish line, all your pains will disappear. I know it hurts, but don’t give up now. I’ll see you at the finish line!
“Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).