Suppose you’re running a 100-yard dash. You’re in the starting blocks. The gun fires and you start out running. You’re 10 yards ahead of everybody else. You’re three feet from the goal! But you quit.
I don’t care how far ahead you are, you just lost the race.
You’re always a failure if you quit. You’re never a failure until you quit. Thank God the apostle Paul never stopped running! Under house arrest in Rome, he wrote:
7But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,… 12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfected; but I follow after, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Try to visualize the apostle Paul as he penned these words…a man who had a prison record, his body bearing the marks of three shipwrecks, a body that was pickled as he languished in the Mediterranean for 36 long hours, scarred from 195 stripes laid on his back. And yet he is still running the race saying,
“Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfected; but I follow after…” (v. 12)
“I haven’t reached the goal,” Paul says. “I'm not mature yet, but I’m not going to quit. I follow after.” Look at verse 12 where he says “I follow after” (other translations, press on). The word in the original language means “relentlessly pursue.” The idea is determination. His eye is on the goal. He is straining every nerve, every sinew. He doesn’t have a “take it or leave it” attitude. He’s not quitting; he’s pressing on. Here is what Paul said about himself in 2 Corinthians 4:8:
“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; We are persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.”
Paul learned through hard-won experience that there is “trouble on every side.” He wrote to the Christians in Rome:
“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope…” Romans 5:3-4
The word patience here is the word for endurance or perseverance. One translation says, “Brings about perseverance.” Another says, “Produces endurance,” that courageous endurance which enables us to keep on going without quitting.
Paul was an endurance runner. He was the “Ironman” of the early church. Tribulation is here to teach us patience if we will submit to its work and not rebel. A crisis will not automatically make you a better person; it will reveal what you are made of. Then, if you will allow it—and not quit—it will do its work.
William Barclay describes this kind of endurance and patience this way:
It is not the patience that can sit down and bow its head and let things descend upon it and passively endure until the storm has passed. It is the spirit that can bear things not simply with resignation, but with blazing hope. It is not the spirit that sits statically enduring in one place, but the spirit that bears things, because it knows that these things are leading to a goal of glory. It is not patience that grimly waits for the end, but patience which radiantly hopes for the dawn.
How Not to Quit
Some of you used to be deacons, or served in a ministry, or taught a class, or worked with youth, but you quit.
Some of you may be on the verge of quitting. But what should you do? Don’t give way to discouragement and despondency. Depend upon the Lord Jesus Christ. Ask for wisdom.
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given.” James 1:5
So many times when tribulation comes we say, “Lord, take it away.” But our first prayer, instead of “Lord, take it away,” ought to be “Lord, give me wisdom. What is it, God, that I’m supposed to learn in this situation?”
Don’t waste your sorrows. If God is bringing those things into your life to mature you, then pray, “Lord, teach me to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” Ask God to give you wisdom to pass the test so He won’t have to keep giving it. He’s not going to flunk you out. He’s going to re-enroll you! He’s going to keep on giving the test. The fruit of that will be maturity and patience, from which will come the strength to finish your race.
You don’t have to be in great physical, financial, or intellectual shape to run this race. You can be an all-star athlete at 90. When Paul said, “I press on,” he was a battered old apostle. Writing under house arrest, near the end of his ministry, he was still running. You can run even from a sick bed. Surrounding you, a great cloud of witnesses testify that they ran their race and never quit.
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us…. Hebrews 12:1
Joni Eareckson Tada is running from her wheelchair. Billy Graham, in his 90s, is faithfully running his race. Anyone can. But you dare not quit.
“…Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.” Hebrews 12:2a
If this article has been a blessing to you, we have a deeper study on this topic available at our web site, www.lwf.org.
Just click on “Resources” at the top of the page, then “Digging Deeper.” We hope it will be a blessing to you and strengthen you as you “run your race.”
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