Finish The Race : The Final Lap
To quote the late and legendary, Kobe Bryant:
“Despite fear, finish the job”
The enemy can’t deny or destroy what God has for you, but he will make an effort to delay it!
The enemy doesn’t always use adverse circumstances to delay us. Instead, he’ll make us look at our circumstances from an adverse perspective. The word adversity can be defined as a state or instance of continued difficulty or misfortune.
Everything that we are facing right now and everything that we’re going to face this year doesn’t have to be viewed as misfortune. James encourages us to consider any kind of trouble as an opportunity for great joy (James 1:2 NLT)
To explain his reasoning, he mentions the following in verse three: “For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.”
Instead of looking at your trials as punishment, embrace them as the process that develops the necessary endurance to finish the race!
The first part of Romans 12:2 states the following: “Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind.
It’s difficult to maintain a Godly perspective on your race while being obedient to the standards of the world! We shouldn’t be so loyal to what we believe that we can grow to believe something else!
This emphasizes the importance of allowing God to transform us internally through a COMPLETE change of our minds. Without this adjustment, the enemy can control how we see things and ultimately makes our race more difficult than it has to be.
If you’re not careful, you’ll consider something to be a burden when God sent it to be a blessing!
I remember the night that I left church with the feeling of defeat and discouragement. For the first time, I felt some concern about my ministerial career.
After some deep reflection and prayer, I recognized that I left church with the wrong perception. It made sense to leave that night with some anger and agitation, but I realized that the opinions of others didn’t alter God’s opinion of me. Despite the comments being circulated about me, I realized that it wouldn’t make God question his decision of choosing me!
My perspective shifted from repairing my reputation to protecting and perfecting my character. The late basketball coach, John Wooden mentioned the following about character:
“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”
We have to remember that we are exactly who God says that we are:
Romans 8:37 reminds us that we are more than conquerors through Christ
Romans 8:38 reminds us that NOTHING can separate us from his love
1 Thessalonians 1:4 reminds us that we are loved and chosen by God
John 1:12 reminds us that we are children of God
Genesis 1:27 reminds us that God created us in his own image
We’ll miss these things if we possess the wrong perception.
The New King James Version of Ephesians 1:11 mentions the following:
“In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will.”
Along with receiving an inheritance, we were chosen in advance according to his purpose! In addition to that, God only takes HIS advice when it comes to our plans. It doesn’t matter who counted you out when God already counted you in. The critics might have a lot to say, but God has the FINAL say!
Despite the odds and adversity that you’re facing, the goal and final destination is still the finish line.
Reflecting on everything that I’ve been through, God brought me too far to let my inheritance be intercepted by the enemy! Even though I might have reached the figurative ceiling in once place doesn’t disqualify me from having a higher ceiling in another. God will always control the ceiling to my career.
To win your race, you cannot let the enemy shape your perception. The next time you entertain the temptation of what the enemy is telling you, ask yourself this question:
Why would I let the enemy shape my perception of the course that God prepared for me?
If the enemy doesn’t want you to reach the finish line, why would you let him tell you how to run towards it?
John 10:10 reminds us of the enemy’s purpose:
“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”
The enemy wants to steal, kill and destroy any hope that you have in yourself or God! He’ll always tell you what he thinks you’re not, and sometimes he’ll even do it using your own voice.
Although the enemy loves reminding us of what we "lack", God loves reminding us of what we have in him!
This emphasizes the importance of keeping our focus on Jesus as we run our race. To paraphrase the final part of the previous scripture, he wants us to have a life filled with abundance!
As you run the first or final lap of your race, keep your attention on God and align your thoughts with his!
Listen to how The Passion Translation of Luke 22:32 captures part of the conversation between Jesus and Peter:
“But I have prayed for you, Peter, that you would stay faithful to me no matter what comes. Remember this: after you have turned back to me and have been restored, make it your life mission to strengthen the faith of your brothers.”
God could easily change our circumstances, but what would we truly gain from that?
Seeing every one of my bills without a balance along with a million dollars in my bank account would give me great comfort, but it would also place a ceiling on my faith.
How many of our testimonies would be erased if we didn’t encounter any tests in our lives?
This is one of the reasons that I emphasized having the right perspective of the path that we are on. We have to realize that challenges develop our faith more than comfort does!
Comfort gives us pleasure while our challenges push us closer to what we’ve been praying for and ultimately the person that’s ready to receive it!
My faith isn’t the result of God making a way, but a product of seeing him make a way when I couldn’t see one! Faith is the only way to please God, and he understands the contribution that it makes to our race.
God is not willing to sacrifice the development of our faith for a season of comfort. He knows how costly this could be for us in the long run.
Listen to how The Message captures one of Jesus’ prayers before crucifixion:
“Going a little ahead, he fell on his face, praying, “My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?”
(Matthew 26:39 MSG)
If God surrendered his plan and satisfied the initial request that Jesus made, does he still become the savior of the world?
What happens to the narrative about Jesus enduring a rugged cross on Calvary?
Could we still celebrate and shout about what happened “Three days later”?
Does the cross remain the primary symbol of the Christian religion?
Does the blood still possess the same power?
Some may suggest that God could’ve found another way to elevate Jesus to the throne, but would that story have the same impact as witnessing Jesus defeat death?
I know some of us may resemble Jesus falling on his face, asking God to remove the pain that we feel. We have to remember that dysfunction is only a phase of the course and not the entire race.
Although Jesus initially asked to get out of being crucified, he ultimately put God’s plan over his own pain.We have to learn to do the same thing. This is the reason that Jesus prays for our faith instead of fixing the flawed parts of our life.
Our faith is the ONLY way to function in the midst of dysfunction, and this is necessary to develop the discipline needed to finish the race!
The enemy will try to convince you that you’re running a dysfunctional race, but I’m here to remind you that you’re running a race with dysfunctional conditions. Every storm eventually runs out of rain, and the precipitation may be contributing to the growth of the mustard seed that you planted in faith!
Dysfunction is meant to develop your discipline, not break it! When Jesus went through the wilderness, he didn’t remain there. After forty days and forty nights of temptation and testing, he returned with power!
Don’t let the dysfunction in your life defeat you, let it develop you!
I understand the discomfort that comes with enduring the most difficult part of your race, but never confuse a phase with a permanent place. Jesus did encounter death, but we all know that only lasted for three days. Don’t sacrifice your “Calvary” moment for a season of comfort!
The only way to the throne is through the cross!
As you finish your race or begin the first lap of the next one, you have to prepare for “potential” distractions.
A distraction doesn’t ultimately become a distraction until it’s done distracting us! The word distraction can be defined as something that prevents us from giving our full attention to something.
When we think about it, becoming distracted is a decision. Just because the enemy attempts to distract you doesn’t mean that you have to become distracted.
Being surrounded by unhealthy food doesn’t imply that your focus has to shift from your weight goal to the anticipated taste of the food that surrounds you.
When Jesus was in the wilderness, he was tempted on three separate occasions, but his focus ultimately remained on God.
Listen to how The Message captures the first test that Jesus encountered in the wilderness:
“Next Jesus was taken into the wild by the Spirit for the Test. The Devil was ready to give it. Jesus prepared for the Test by fasting forty days and forty nights. That left him, of course, in a state of extreme hunger, which the Devil took advantage of in the first test: “Since you are God’s Son, speak the word that will turn these stones into loaves of bread.”
Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: “It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.” (Matthew 4:1-4 MSG)
Instead of concentrating on his extreme hunger, Jesus made the decision to concentrate on the word of God! When we are confronted with temptation and a potential distraction, we have to find comfort in the word, similar to Jesus!
One of the best ways to manage our potential distractions is by preparing for them. The Message Translation of Luke 4:13 mentions the following about Jesus completing his testing in the wilderness:
“That completed the testing. The Devil retreated temporarily, lying in wait for another opportunity.”
As the text states, Satan retreated temporarily and waited for the next opportune time to tempt Jesus. We are not exempt from anything that Jesus encountered. The enemy may have retreated after the first lap of your race, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a plan to show up again.
He’s ultimately waiting for the “right” time to insert himself back into the picture. We have to remember that the enemy’s purpose is to kill, steal and destroy. Although God has a plan, that doesn’t stop the enemy from creating a plot to prevent us from reaching the finish line!
This is the reason that we have to create a diligent plan to reach our ultimate goal!
The Voice Translation of Proverbs 21:5 states the following:
“A well-thought-out plan will work to your advantage, but hasty actions will cost you dearly.”
Preparing for your potential distractions will give you an advantage while a lack of preparation shifts that advantage to your distractions.
As The Message Translation describes it:
“Careful planning puts you ahead in the long run; hurry and scurry puts you further behind.”
Our “distractions” will ultimately delay our arrival to the finish line if we don’t properly prepare for them!
Entertaining the temptation of eating an unhealthy snack or meal can create a further distance between you and the weight goal that you established at the beginning of the year.
Defeat your distractions with discipline!
Don’t Let Dislike Become A Distraction
The Passion Translation of Mark 13:13 states the following:
“Expect to be hated by all because of your allegiance to the cause that bears my name. But determine to be faithful to the end and you will be saved.”
If you are running a race for Christ, you better prepare for both dislike and distractions. As the text states, this is a result of our allegiance to the cause connected to him. When I accepted the call to become a Women Empowerment Advocate, I expected my efforts to be accepted by everyone.
The Gospel of Mark reshaped my expectations, and helped me understand that my unwavering commitment to my calling would lead to dislike or hate as the text mentions.
Living in a world with people that are conformed to the ways of it, being a Women Empowerment Advocate as a black man seems unusual.
Although most appreciate what I do, there are some that still believe there’s an ulterior motive behind my coaching and advocacy for women. I realized that you can’t change the opinion of people that are committed to disliking you and what God has called you to do!
Although the enemy lacks the ability to damage God’s plan, the enemy is very strategic in his attempt to distract us from completing it.
If you are not intentional about crossing the finish line, your focus may shift towards the “fans”.
Instead of seeking approval from the audience, keep your focus on the one that approved you! I’m all about making your haters your motivators, but don’t become obsessed with proving with them wrong!
This will delay your arrival to the finish line, and eventually become a distraction. It’s hard to run towards the finish line when you’re focused on the sideline! There’s a reason that you’re in the game and they’re watching you from the stands! Stay focused on finishing YOUR race!
Don’t compromise your position in the race for a few additional claps or to “stunt” on your haters. You don’t have the time to flex on your ex! It’s time to plan and prepare for what God has next!
Listen to how The Voice Translation captures Luke 9:62
Jesus: “Listen, if your hand is on the plow but your eyes are looking backward, then you’re not fit for the kingdom of God”
To paraphrase this text, you cannot build the kingdom of God if you’re concentrating on what’s behind you! We have to remember that the finish line is ahead of us, not where the critics are talking!
The Voice Translation of Philippians 3:14 describes the mindset needed to complete your race:
“I am sprinting towards the only goal that counts; to cross the line, to win the prize, and to hear God’s call to resurrection life found exclusively in Jesus the Anointed.”
As you approach the final lap of your race, keep your eyes on the ONLY goal that matters!
FINISH THE RACE!