I've been asked to bring a message in a local nursing home. The following is a rough
draft of the message. Your productive critique is welcome. As are your prayers. May God
deafen the ears of those who hear me speak, may He open the hearts of those who hear Him
speak through me. Thanks.
The year was 1968. The place was Mexico City. The nations of the world had gathered for
the Olympic games. Athletes from around the globe had trained for years to compete in the
games, and finally, the time had arrived. The Opening ceremonies had been held, and events
were under way. The marathon, while not the most exciting sporting event, is arguably the
most severe test of human endurance. Many runners trained extensively to compete in the 26
plus mile race. The race began, the eventual winner came running back into the Olympic
Stadium, welcomed by cheers from the appreciative fans. Soon other runners arrived as
well, and eventually, the race was over. Over, that is, except for one runner. A single,
lone runner was still out on the course. Other track events continued in the stadium, and
an hour passed. Then two hours. Finally, several hours later, the final runner, John
Stephen Akhwari, running for the country of Tanzania, in 57th place out of 57 runners,
entered the stadium.. His pace was slow. His steps were wobbly. His knee was bloody and
bandaged from a fall earlier in the race. He looked absolutely terrible, but as he entered
the stadium, the fans realized who he was and what he was doing, and they began to cheer.
As he made his way around the track and finally, painfully, across the finish line, the
cheers swelled Johns determination as the fans saluted the.
Later, after the race, he was asked why, even though he had lost the race by several
hours, he had continued running. His answer was simple: My country did not send me
7000 miles away to start the race. They sent me 7000 miles to finish it.
In 2 Timothy 4:6-8 Paul writes: 6For I am already being poured out like a drink
offering, and the time has come for my departure. 7I have fought the good fight, I have
finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8Now there is in store for me the crown of
righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that dayand
not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
Paul said that a crown of righteousness awaits each of us who finishes the race. But
finishing is much harder than starting. Finishing means running day in and day out.
Finishing means training, self-denial, discipline, and staying focused on the goal. God
has not put you or me on this Earth to simply start or even simply run the race. God has
put us here to finish. You and I must keep running the good race to its completion.
Lets more narrowly focus on the good race. The race is clearly a word picture for
life. Earthly life. A life that for many can be tragically short or filled with troubles
but also filled with incredible opportunity. Billy Graham put it this way when he said
Life is a glorious opportunity, if it is used to condition us for eternity. If we
fail in this, though we succeed in everything else, our life will have been a
Christians need to succeed in the race of life by focusing on Jesus, who conditions us,
who prepares us for eternity. Non Christians may look at success by believing in such
things as the power of positive thinking or the pursuit of happiness, . Non Christians may
live only for the present moment, and if unhappy in it, enter into a cycle of despair that
only Jesus can break. Christians however, can endure unhappiness, sadness and loneliness;
backstabbing, betrayal and friendlessness; poverty, hunger and thirst; mourning, grief and
even death, because Jesus faced all those things on our behalf. As Christians, we know
that Jesus suffering was an act of obedience, and His Crucifixion, the door to
eternal life. As Christians, we know that He ascended on high and sits, alive and well, at
the right hand of His Father and our Father, where He rules over all things and pleads our
case. You and I can face our own crucifixions, our own tribulations and our trials,
because we know Him who blazed that trail for us, a trail that leads to heavenly glory.
Let me take a moment to paint a picture of Jesus today, right this moment - not on a
cross anymore - but alive and risen. His great work of salvation finished. - Jesus
is our sustenance as you and I struggle to finish the race. - Jesus sits at the right hand
of God where He pleads our case to the Father. Jesus is bright & shining in all
his eternal glory, awaiting to embrace those who finish the race. Jesus nail
scarred hands are folded in prayer as he intercedes on your behalf & mine to the
Father. - Jesus dispatches His Holy Spirit to fill & empower the church, Christians,
thats you and me, even now. Jesus sends angels to assist & minister to
us, as we face the struggles of this race.
The Bible says that this Risen Jesus - seated in Heaven is able to save those who come
to God by Him. It also says this about Jesus. He is able to keep us from stumbling. He is
able to present us as pure before the throne. He is able to enable us for victorious
living. He is able to help us walk for him day by day. When the race gets hard, and I know
that for some the race is so very hard, we can look to Jesus in all his roles. By that I
mean we must remember that Jesus is our Prophet, our Priest, and our King. He is our
Prophet when He calls us to turn away from selfishness and turn towards holiness. He is
our Priest, when we recognize the sacrifice at Calvary, where our sins are forgiven, and
where we are made clean by the blood of the lamb. He is our King when we allow Him to lead
and direct us, He is our Shepherd who loves us and cares for us, He is our Physician who
heals us, makes us whole, if we only submit to His urging, His longing to do so.
So weve defined the race as the journey we call life. Weve described that
hardships are part of life and how focusing on Christ is the most effective means by which
to endure the journey. But weve only touched and hinted at what awaits those who
finish the race.
Allow me to tell you a story here. There was once a woman who had been diagnosed with a
terminal illness and had been given three months to live. So as she was getting her things
"in order," she contacted her pastor and had him come to her house to discuss
her final wishes. She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures
she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. She also requested to be
buried with her favorite Bible.
Everything was in order and the pastor was preparing to leave when the woman suddenly
remembered something, something very important to her. "Pastor, there's one more
thing," she said excitedly. "What's that?" was the pastor's reply.
"This is so very important," the woman continued. I want to be buried with
a fork in my right hand." Pause. The pastor stood looking at the woman, not knowing
quite what to say. "That surprises you, doesn't it?" the woman asked.
"Well, to be honest, yes said the pastor. The woman continued. "In all my
years of attending church socials and potluck dinners, I always remember that when the
dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would sooner or later lean over and
whisper, 'Keep your fork.' I would get excited because I knew that something better was
coming... something worth waiting for, something like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish
apple pie. Something wonderful, something with substance! So, I just want people to see me
there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder "What's with
the fork?'. Then I want you to tell them, "Keep your fork....the best is yet to
The pastor became misty eyed with tears of joy as he hugged the woman good-bye. He knew
this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. Yet he was
comforted by the knowledge that this fine Christian woman had a better grasp of heaven
than he possibly did. She KNEW that something better was close at hand.
At the funeral people were walking by the woman's casket and they saw the pretty dress
she was wearing, her favorite Bible, and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over,
the pastor heard the question "What's with the fork?" And over and over he
smiled as he told them about the fork and what it symbolized.
Allow me now to read a few Scripture verses.
From I Corinthians 9:25 - Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.
They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last
From Philippians 3:12-14 The Living Bible translation - I'm not perfect, but I'm
bringing all my energies to bear on one thing: forgetting the past and looking forward to
what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God
is calling us up to heaven because of what Christ did for us.
And finally from II Timothy 4: 6-7 - I have fought the good fight, I have finished the
race. I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness,
which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day.
Folks, I cant make anybody believe those verses. I cant make anybody really
feel that they represent truth. But the Bible says that this isnt really my job.
Thats the job of Gods Holy Spirit, the job of His ministering angels.
My job, as I see it, is to proclaim the hope that is in Jesus Christ. A hope that is
within the grasp of anyone who believes. A hope that is sustaining, and has become so real
to me, and so real to countless of others.
Its a hope that Max Lucado has so eloquently written of in his book called The
Applause of Heaven. In the final chapter, Max writes vividly about home. But not our
earthly home. Listen with me to Max Lucado.
First he reads from the book of Revelation, chapter 21: 1Then I saw a new heaven and a
new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no
longer any sea. 2I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from
God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice
from the throne saying, Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with
them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4He
will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or
pain, for the old order of things has passed away. 5He who was seated on the throne
said, I am making everything new! Then he said, Write this down, for
these words are trustworthy and true. 6He said to me: It is done. I am the
Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink
without cost from the spring of the water of life.
Then Max writes:
The most hopeful words of that passage are those of Gods resolve: I am
making everything new. Its hard to see things grow old. The town in which I
grew up is growing old. I was there recently. Some of the buildings are boarded up. Some
of the houses are torn down. Some of my teachers are retired. Some are buried. The old
movie house where I took my dates has For Sale on the marquee, long since
outdated by the newer movie houses that give you eight choices. The only visitors to the
drive-in theatre are tumbleweeds and rodents. Memories of first dates and senior proms are
weatherworn by the endless rains of years. High School sweethearts are divorced. A
cheerleader died of an aneurysm. Our fastest halfback is buried only a few plots from my
own father. I wish I could make it all new again. I wish I could blow all the dust off the
streets. I wish I could walk through the familiar neighborhood, and wave at the familiar
faces, and pet the familiar dogs and hit one more home run in the Little League Park. I
wish I could walk down Main Street and call out the merchants that have retired and open
the doors that have been boarded up. I wish I could make everything new
cant. My Mother still lives in the same house. You couldnt pay her to move.
The house that seemed so big when I was a boy now feels so tiny. On the wall are pictures
of Mom in her youth-her hair autumn brown, her face irresistibly beautiful. I see her now-
still healthy, still vivacious, but with wrinkles, graying hair, slower step. Would that I
could wave the wand and make everything new again. Would that I could put her once again
in the strong embrace of the high-plains cowboy she loved and buried. Would that I could
stretch out the wrinkles and take off the bifocals and restore the spring to her step.
Would that I could make everything new
but I cant. I cant but God can.
He restores my soul wrote the shepherd. He doesnt reform; he restores.
He doesnt camouflage the old; He restores the new. The Master Builder will pull out
the original plan and restore it. He will restore the vigor. He will restore the energy.
He will restore the hope. He will restore the soul. When you see how this world grows
stooped and weary then read of a home where everything is made new, tell me, doesnt
that make you want to go home? What would you give in exchange for a home like that? Would
you really rather have a few possessions on earth than eternal possessions in heaven?
Would you really choose a life of slavery to passion over a life of freedom? Would you
honestly give up all of your heavenly mansions for a second-rate sleazy motel on Earth?
Great, Jesus said is your reward in Heaven. He must have smiled
when He said that line. His eyes must have danced and His hand must have pointed skyward.
For He should know. It was His idea. It was His Home.
Max Lucado is a gifted, a very talented man. Here he has described for us what awaits
those who finish the race. It is home. My prayer here is that all of you will persevere,
will continue the struggle, will finish the race that God has placed us each in. For if
you know Jesus as your Savior, if you have repented of your sins and accepted Him as the
substitionary sacrifice for all that you have done wrong in this life, if you have asked
for His mercy and His love to fill you, then you to will one day see the crown of
righteousness, you too will one day see Jesus with His arms held high and wide to embrace
you, and you will hear Him say to you, amongst the applause of heaven, Well done,
good and faithful servant.
Lets pray: Holy and precious Father, ruler of all things, King of this earth,
Director of this race we find ourselves in, we worship you, we praise you, we exalt you.
We thank you for Your grace and mercy. We thank you that You have given us Your Son Jesus.
We ask in His name, that You send Your Holy Spirit, even as we pray, and minister to each
of these your servants. Father wrap them in Your strong and loving arms. Whisper Oh Lord,
to their spirits, and tell of that great reward that awaits them as they finish the race.
Oh Lord, thank You for this time, thank You for Your presence, thank You for what you have
done and are doing in this place, thank You for each person here. Remind us Father, as we
leave this place we never leave Your presence. We pray this in Your Son our Saviors
name. In Jesus Mighty name, amen!