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Pearls of the Kingdom 8/30/23

How many of you are familiar with the name John Stephen Akhwari? One would have to travel back in time to the 1968 Olympics in Mexico. Any idea yet? Akhwari was a marathon runner representing the nation of Tanzania. Any idea yet? He did not win any medals but his story can be an encouragement to us today. Let me share his story with you.

John Stephen Akhwari was not a favorite to win the men's marathon. His chances of earning a medal were challenged by the effects of the high altitude and that cramps during the race slowed his progress even further. If that was not painful enough he was involved in a melee of athletes jockeying for position. Akhwari fell to the ground, gashing his knee and also causing a dislocation. He also smashed his shoulder against the pavement. Most observers, seeing his injuries, assumed he would pull out and go to the hospital. Instead, he received medical attention and returned to the track to continue his race. His pace was now much slower than before, but his resolve to complete the event remained intact. Eighteen of the 75 starters had pulled out already and he didn’t want to be number nineteen.

More than an hour after the winner had finished, John Stephen Akhwari crossed the finish line in last place. The medals had already been awarded and many had already left, but a few thousand spectators who had remained in the stadium after the sun went down cheered him home. As he reached the stadium, he was limping and the bandage around his leg was flapping in the breeze. You can watch a brief video of his race on you-tube.

He was asked why he'd carried on, and his response has gone down in sporting history. “My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race,” he said. “They sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race.”

I have shared before that the Christian faith journey is like running a marathon. It is a long race with ups and downs, hills and valleys, twists and turns, potholes and obstacles to navigate around. Like any long race, a steady pace and patience is the key to finishing. The marathon is not a race for the 100-yard sprinter. The “fast and furious” runner will burn out quickly and drop out.

I sense the race we run by faith is not about a competition where I am trying to pass everyone to win the race. Leave everyone behind. Yes, there is a prize but it is a prize for all who finish their course (race). This race of faith is about enduring the challenges that happen in life and pressing through to finish the race. I believe it is also a race where we are to encourage one another along the race (journey) not to give up, stay the course and finish. If I have too, I will run along side another to encourage them so that we both finish. If I need too, lets walk together always pressing, leaning forward toward the finish line.

Heb 12:1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”

2 Tim 4:7-8 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.”

My hope for you today my friend is to encourage you as you are running your race of faith. May you be encouraged by John Stephen Akhwaris’ story of determination to finish his race by pressing through, enduring the struggles and pain along the course.

Remember we run for a prize that does not fade away, we do it for an eternal prize.

1 Cor 9:25 “All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.”

Stay the course my friend,

Pastor Jeff

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