Soul Food

We Will Finish Together

The day of the race arrives at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Derek Redman and his father vow that no matter what happens he will finish the race. As race time approaches for the semifinal 400 heat, Derek’s father heads up to his seat at the top of Olympic Stadium to cheer on his son. The stadium is packed with 65,000 fans, bracing themselves for one of sport’s greatest and most exciting spectacles.

The race begins and Derek breaks from the pack and quickly seizes the lead. “Keep it up, keep it up,” Derek’s father says to himself while watching his son run the race. Down the backstretch, only 175 meters away from finishing, Derek is a shoo-in to make the finals. Suddenly, Derek slows down and begins hopping on one leg then eventually falls to the track. He had torn his hamstring. As he lies on the track, clutching his right hamstring, a medical personnel unit runs toward him. “Oh, no,” Derek’s dad says to himself. His face pales and as he sees his son in trouble, he races down from the top row of the stands, sidestepping people, and bumping into others. There was nothing or no one getting in his way of reaching to his son.

While on the track, tears begin to pour down Derek’s face and he tells himself that his dream is over—he is too wounded to continue. But as medical crews arrive with a stretcher, Derek remembers the vow he made between him and his father. So he rose up tells them, “No, there’s no way I’m getting on that stretcher. I’m going to finish my race.” Then, in a moment that will live forever in the minds of millions, Derek lifts himself to his feet, ever so slowly, and starts hobbling down the track.

The other runners have finished the race and suddenly, everyone realizes that Derek isn’t dropping out of the race by hobbling off to the side of the track. Instead, he is actually continuing on one leg. He’s going to attempt to hobble his way to the finish line. Derek limps onward one painful step at a time, each one a little slower and more painful than the one before. Derek starts to wonder if he can make it much further; his face twisted with pain and tears. Suddenly, Derek’s dad gets to the bottom of the stands, leaps over the railing, avoids a security guard, and runs out to his son, with two security people chasing after him. “That’s my son out there,” he yells back to security, “and I’ve got to help him.”

Finally, with Derek facing defeat and painfully limping along the track, his dad reaches him at the final curve, about 120 meters from the finish, and wraps his arm around his waist. “I’m here, son, “he says softly, hugging his boy. “You don’t have to do this.” But Derek replied with, “Yes, I do.” So Derek’s father holds him tighter and says, “Well then, we will finish this together.” Derek puts his arms around his father’s shoulders and sobs.

Together, arm in arm, father and son, with 65,000 people cheering, clapping and crying; they were finishing the race, just as they vowed they would. A couple of steps from the finish line and with the crowd in an absolute frenzy, Derek’s dad releases the grip he has on his son, so Derek could cross the finish line by himself. Then he throws his arms around Derek again, both crying, and his dad says, “I’m the proudest father alive”. “I’m prouder of you than I would have been if you had won the gold medal. It took a lot of guts for you to do what you did.”

Every day we have struggles—we get knocked down, injured, and feel defeated and wonder where God (our daddy) is. But these troubles are not going away because the enemy will constantly be chasing you. He wants you to give up; quit when it becomes too much to bear. You have to remember that the troubles may not go away, but you do have help. I am reminded of Apostle Paul. The devil was a “thorn” in Paul’s flesh that was constantly stirring up the people in the town that Paul visited when he shared the gospel. He was persecuted, beaten, imprisoned, and hated. He cried out to God three times for Him to stop the torture he was going through. Paul just wanted God to take it all away; but God’s response was not to take it away, but that His grace was enough and that when Paul was weak, His strength would be made perfect.

God didn’t need to take anything away. Paul just needed to tap into the source of God’s grace (peace, healing, comfort, strength and all other blessings) that was already available to him. God’s grace was enough to help carry Paul to the finish line and His grace is enough to carry you to the finish line as well. But God can only show up and demonstrate His power in our times of weakness when we come to a point where we can’t take another stop alone and therefore we allow Him to take over.

Once Paul learned this, he quit complaining and crying out to God for what was already available to him. Instead, he rejoiced when he suffered because he knew God was then able to show up and show out. God was able to do the impossible. For example, when Paul was shackled in chains and beaten he couldn’t continue alone but yet he never gave up. He worshiped and praised God and that’s when God suddenly showed up–an earthquake happened and God’s grace appeared. Paul’s chains were broken and the prison cells were opened. He was able to free himself from an impossible situation. God’s strength was made perfect in Paul’s weakness.

Paul had a “thorn in his flesh” (troubles from the devil)…what thorns do you have today? It is inevitable that while on your race to your finish line, troubles will come your way. The devil is going to constantly throw obstacles in your way to get you to trip and fall. But how are you going to respond? Are you going to lay there and complain? Will you get up and try to struggle in your own efforts and strength, therefore causing you more pain? Or will you let God (your heavenly father) come lift you up in His grace and carry you on His shoulders high above your storm clouds?

God sees you hurting. He sees every tear you shed and watches as you desperately try to crawl or limp to your finish line; all the while hoping you will use Him for strength. You may think you can fight your battles alone, but only when you realize in your weakness that you cannot be dependent on your own efforts can God step in and bring you to safety. But as long as you lay there or struggle in your own abilities, your heavenly father can only watch you struggle with tears in His own eyes, just hoping you will allow Him to release His power.

So reach out to Him for that is when His peace, strength, healing and comfort will abound. You will still experience pain and heartache as you get closer to the finish line, but together, with the world watching, you will rise above and finish the race God has promised you to finish; and as you cross that finish line, God will be the proudest daddy alive because you defeated the enemy and never gave up. Remember, you can and will rise above anything and everything the devil throws at you because nothing can keep you down, for you are more than a conqueror in Christ Jesus. Greater is He that lives in you, then he (the devil) that lives in the world.

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