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Kay Warren: How to Finish Well in Life and Ministry

  • Kay Warren
Kay Warren: How to Finish Well in Life and Ministry

Our task is not to be people pleasers but Jesus pleasers and to run our race solely for him.

Although I’m not a runner—at all—I resonate with the analogy here. Visualize this with me. You’re running in a race, doing the best you know how to run well, avoid pits and roadblocks in the road, run efficiently and effectively, and stay focused on the finish line. But as you’re running, you start to hear the whispers—sometimes the jeers—of the crowd. “Look at the way she runs! She runs like a duck! Where did she get those running shoes? They’re terrible! Who told her she could finish this race?” If you turn to look at the jeering crowd, you’re likely to stumble, lose your footing, and fall flat on your face.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/David Kennedy

Keeping Your Eyes on the Finish Line

Imagine another scenario. You’re running your race, doing the best you can. You’ve trained and practiced, and you’re giving it your full effort. And again from the crowd you hear voices, but this time they’re voices of encouragement. You hear voices saying, “Good job! You’re doing fantastic! Keep going! You are amazing!” If you turn your head to nod and wave in acknowledgment of their affirmations—“You know what? I’m pretty good!”—you can stumble, lose your footing, and fall flat on your face.

I recently watched four of my grandchildren participate in their school’s annual jogathon. A microcosm of life unfolded right before my eyes. Cole, our first grader, was determined to run the entire time—not walk, not jog, but run. He started off at the front of the pack, giving it his all, but within a lap or two, he started slowing down. His mom and I yelled our support each time he rounded the track near us, but I realized we hadn’t told him not to actually look at us as he ran by. He would hear our voices and turn his head to find us in the crowd, and several times I thought he was going down.

The tangle of other small bodies around him running at a variety of speeds caused him to trip, but he managed to catch himself. It wouldn’t have mattered if we were shouting support or hurling insults. If he had fallen while looking at us instead of the finish line, the result would have been the same. 

Photo Credit: ©Unsplash

“We must learn to ignore both the critics and the cheering crowd.”

The adoring crowd can be as big of a distraction as the jeering critics. It doesn’t really matter whether discouragement or pride trips us up—either way, we’re going to face-plant. The lesson is this: we must learn to ignore both the critics and the cheering crowd. Instead, we must focus on the finish line—or as the writer of Hebrews says, we must “fix our eyes on Jesus.”

If we want to finish well in life and ministry, we must believe and hold on to faith when others in the race oppose and criticize us, when we think we’ve run as far as we can and our strength has evaporated, when the obstacles in the way threaten to tank us, when the sun shines and when it’s rainy, when we find ourselves momentarily off the track, and most of all when we can’t see the finish line.

Photo by Ezra Comeau-Jeffrey on Unsplash

Running a Race When You Can't See the Finish Line

Myra Runyon competed in the fifteen-hundred-meter race for the United States in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. At the time, Myra was thirty-one years old with macular degeneration, which means she could see only shapes and colors. She sensed when people were next to her as she ran. She had first competed in the Special Olympics, and this was her first chance to compete in the Olympics. I happened to catch her preliminary race, and she gave an interview. The newscaster asked her, “How do you do this? Describe what it’s like to run a race you can’t see.”

She said, “You know, I come around the bend in those last few meters and I realize that I’m running toward a finish line that I can’t see. It doesn’t matter. I’m not slowing down for anything.”

Photo Credit: ©Thinkstock-lzf

“Run, sister, run, strengthened by the cloud of witnesses that surround our every step.”

My life verse encapsulates what I’m trying to do here in however many years God gives me—I want to complete the task Jesus gave me and to finish my race.

I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. (Acts 20:24)

You and I are running toward a finish line we cannot see. If a woman competing in a sporting event will not slow down just because it’s difficult, just because she can’t see the end, then I’m not going to quit in my spiritual race either. We don’t have to see the finish line. Myra said, “I can’t see it but I know it’s there.” I don’t see it—neither do you—but it’s there. So run, sister, run, strengthened by the cloud of witnesses that surround our every step. Don’t let anything keep you from focusing on Jesus’s face. Ignore the critics; paying attention to them will “kill” your spirit. You’re going to make it. It doesn’t matter if you spring across the finish line or crawl; you’re going to make it. Keep gazing into the eyes of the One who adores you, and run straight to Jesus.

Excerpted from Sacred Privilege by Kay Warren (©2018). Published by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Used by permission.

Photo Credit: ©Thinkstock/m-imagephotography