One of the most moving passages of Scripture in the Bible is found in Acts 20 where the apostle Paul shares an emotional “goodbye” with the Ephesian Elders. This takes place during Paul’s third missionary journey after he has spent three years with these men pouring his life into theirs and equipping them to lead their local church. He’s about to leave and travel to the city of Jerusalem where, by his own words in Acts 20:22, he doesn’t know what’s going to happen next. As he shares his heart with them he reveals the deep desire of his heart when he says, in Acts 20:24, “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” (NIV) He tells them his hearts desire is to “finish the race” and “complete the task.” With those words Paul reminds us that there is great value in finishing what you start.
In 1912, a marathon runner named Shizo Kanakuri was chosen to represent Japan in the Summer Olympics at Stockholm. He began the race but along the way was overcome by the heat so he stopped at, of all things, a garden party for refreshment. But he stayed too long – more than an hour. At that point he thought it was too late to get back in the race so he made his way back to his hotel and then, anonymously, boarded a ship and sailed home, too ashamed to tell anyone he was leaving. For more than 50 years his disappearance was a mystery and he was listed as a missing person in Sweden. Then, one day, he was discovered living a quiet life in southern Japan. In 1966 the Swedish Public Television network called him with an offer: Would you like to finish your run? The 85- year- old Kanakuri accepted, and he traveled to Stockholm to finish the race he had begun so many years before. This time he crossed the finish line. His final time was 54 years, 8 months, 6 days, 8 hours, 32 minutes and 20.3 seconds. His story and Paul’s words remind us that our reward is not found in starting the race, our reward is found in finishing.
So here’s the question: Is there something you have started but have failed to finish? It’s never too late and you’re never too old to get back in the race. Start running today, the finish line is still there.