“I have run the race to the finish.”—2 TIM. 4:7.
SONG 129 We Will Keep Enduring
1. What must all of us do?
WOULD you want to run in a race that you know is difficult, especially if you feel sick or tired? Likely not. The apostle Paul, however, said that all true Christians are in a race. (Heb. 12:1) And all of us, young or old, energetic or tired, must endure to the end if we want to receive the prize that Jehovah offers us.—Matt. 24:13.
2. As recorded at 2 Timothy 4:7, 8, why did Paul have freeness of speech?
2 Paul had freeness of speech because he had successfully “run the race to the finish.” (Read 2 Timothy 4:7, 8.) But what, specifically, is the race that Paul spoke about?
WHAT IS THE RACE?
3. What is the race that Paul spoke about?
3 Paul sometimes used features from the games held in ancient Greece to teach important lessons. (1 Cor. 9:25-27; 2 Tim. 2:5) On a number of occasions, he used running as in a footrace to illustrate the Christian course of life. (1 Cor. 9:24; Gal. 2:2; Phil. 2:16) A person enters this “race” when he dedicates himself to Jehovah and gets baptized. (1 Pet. 3:21) He crosses the finish line when Jehovah grants him the prize of everlasting life.—Matt. 25:31-34, 46; 2 Tim. 4:8.
4. What will we consider in this article?
4 What are some of the similarities between running a long-distance footrace and living a Christian life? There are a number of parallels. Let us consider three of them. First, we need to follow the right course; second, we must focus on the finish line; and third, we have to overcome challenges along the way.
FOLLOW THE RIGHT COURSE
5. What course must we follow, and why?
5 To qualify for the prize in a literal race, the runners must follow the course laid out by the organizers of the event. Similarly, if we want to receive the prize of everlasting life, we must follow the Christian course, or way of life. (Acts 20:24; 1 Pet. 2:21) However, Satan and those who follow his example want us to make a different choice; they want us to “continue running with them.” (1 Pet. 4:4) They ridicule the course of life we follow and claim that the path they are on is better, that it leads to freedom. But their claim is false.—2 Pet. 2:19.
6. What do you learn from the example of Brian?
6 Any who run with those influenced by Satan’s world soon discover that the path they have chosen does not lead to freedom; it leads to slavery. (Rom. 6:16) Consider the example of Brian. His parents encouraged him to follow the Christian course of life. But when he was in his teens, he questioned whether that path would make him happy. Brian decided to run with those who lived by Satan’s standards. “Little did I realize that the so-called freedom I desired would lead me into the clutches of addiction,” he says. “In time, I was abusing drugs and alcohol and living immorally. Over the next several years, I progressively experimented with harder drugs and became a slave to many of them. . . . I began selling drugs to support my lifestyle.” Eventually, Brian decided to live by Jehovah’s standards. He changed paths and got baptized in 2001. He is genuinely happy now that he is following the Christian course of life.b
7. According to Matthew 7:13, 14, what two roads are set before us?
7 How important it is that we choose the right road to follow! Satan wants all of us to stop running on the cramped road that is “leading off into life” and cross over to the spacious road that most people in this world are on. That road is popular and is easier to travel. But it is “leading off into destruction.” (Read Matthew 7:13, 14.) To remain on the right road and not be sidetracked, we must trust in Jehovah and listen to him.
STAY FOCUSED AND AVOID STUMBLING
8. If a runner stumbles, what does he do?
8 The contestants in a long-distance race keep an eye on the road immediately in front of them so that they do not stumble. However, they might still accidentally be tripped by a fellow runner or step into a pothole. If they do fall down, they get back up and keep on running. They focus primarily, not on what made them stumble, but on the finish line and the prize they hope to win.
9. If we stumble, what should we do?
9 In our race, we may stumble many times, making mistakes in what we say or do. Or our fellow runners may make mistakes that hurt us. That is to be expected. We are all imperfect, and we are all running on the same cramped road to life. So we are bound to “bump” against one another at times. Paul acknowledged that we at times would give one another “cause for complaint.” (Col. 3:13) But rather than focus on what made us stumble, let us focus on the prize ahead. If we do stumble, let us choose to get back up and keep on running. If we become bitter and resentful and refuse to get back up, we will not cross the finish line and receive the prize. In addition, we are likely to become an obstacle for others who are trying to run on the cramped road to life.
10. How can we avoid becoming “a stumbling block” to others?
10 Another way we can avoid becoming “a stumbling block” to our fellow runners is by yielding to their preferences whenever possible instead of insisting on our rights. (Rom. 14:13, 19-21; 1 Cor. 8:9, 13) In this important way, we are not like the runners in a literal race. They compete against the other runners, and each runner strives to gain the prize just for himself. Those runners think primarily about their own interests. So they may try to push their way to the front of the pack. By contrast, we are not competing against one another. (Gal. 5:26; 6:4) Our goal is to help as many as possible to cross the finish line with us and gain the prize of life. So we try to apply Paul’s inspired counsel to “look out not only for [our] own interests, but also for the interests of others.”—Phil. 2:4.
11. What does a runner focus on, and why?
11 In addition to looking at the road immediately in front of them, the runners in a literal race focus on the finish line. Even if they cannot see that line with their literal eyes, they can imagine themselves crossing it and receiving the prize. They stay motivated by keeping the prize clearly in mind.
12. What has Jehovah kindly offered us?
12 In the race that we run, Jehovah has kindly offered his people a guaranteed reward for completing the race—everlasting life either in heaven or on a paradise earth. The Scriptures provide previews of this reward, so that we can imagine how wonderful our life will be. The more we keep the hope alive in our mind and heart, the less likely we are to allow anything to stumble us permanently.
KEEP RUNNING DESPITE CHALLENGES
13. What advantage do we have over literal runners?
13 The runners in the Greek games had to overcome challenges, such as tiredness and pain. But all they had to rely on was their training and their own strength. We are like those runners in that we receive training in how to run the race we are in. But we have an advantage over the literal runners. We can draw on an unlimited source of power. If we rely on Jehovah, he promises not only to train us but also to make us strong!—1 Pet. 5:10.
14. How does 2 Corinthians 12:9, 10 help us to face challenges?
14 Paul had to deal with many challenges. In addition to being insulted and persecuted by others, he at times felt weak and he had to cope with what he called “a thorn in the flesh.” (2 Cor. 12:7) But rather than view those challenges as a reason for giving up, he saw them as an opportunity to rely on Jehovah. (Read 2 Corinthians 12:9, 10.) Because Paul adopted this viewpoint, Jehovah helped him through all his trials.
15. If we imitate Paul, what will we experience?
15 We too may be insulted or persecuted for our faith. We may also have to cope with poor health or exhaustion. But if we imitate Paul, each of those challenges can become an opportunity to experience Jehovah’s loving support.
16. Even if you are infirm, what can you do?
16 Are you lying in a bed or sitting in a wheelchair? Do you have weak knees or poor eyesight? If so, can you run along with those who are young and healthy? You certainly can! Many older and infirm ones are running on the road to life. They cannot do this work in their own power. Instead, they draw on Jehovah’s strength by listening to Christian meetings over a telephone tie-line or watching meetings through video streaming. And they engage in the disciple-making work by witnessing to doctors, nurses, and relatives.
17. How does Jehovah feel about those with physical limitations?
17 Never let discouragement over your physical limitations convince you that you are too weak to run on the road to life. Jehovah loves you for your faith in him and your record of endurance. You need his help now more than ever, and he will not abandon you. (Ps. 9:10) Instead, he will draw even closer to you. Note the comments of a sister who deals with some challenging medical conditions: “As health issues continue to mount, I find that the opportunities to share the truth with others become less frequent. But I know that even my small efforts bring joy to Jehovah’s heart, and that makes me happy.” When you feel low, remember that you are not alone. Think of the example set by Paul, and recall his encouraging words: “I take pleasure in weaknesses, . . . for when I am weak, then I am powerful.”—2 Cor. 12:10.
18. What especially difficult challenge do some face?
18 Some who are running on the road to life face another challenge. They are dealing with personal circumstances that others cannot see and may not understand. For example, they have to cope with depression or overwhelming feelings of anxiety. Why do these dear servants of Jehovah face an especially difficult challenge? Because when a person has a broken arm or is confined to a wheelchair, everyone can see the problem he or she faces and may feel moved to help. However, those who must cope with an emotional or a mental disorder may not show any outward signs of suffering. Their distress is just as real as is the distress of someone with a broken limb, but they may not receive the same compassionate response from others.
19. What do we learn from the example of Mephibosheth?
19 If you live with limitations and feel that you are misunderstood, you may be able to draw strength from the example of Mephibosheth. (2 Sam. 4:4) He had to deal with being infirm, and he was misjudged by King David. Mephibosheth did nothing to bring these trials on himself. Yet, he did not allow himself to become negative; he appreciated the positive things in his life. He was thankful for the kindness David had shown him in the past. (2 Sam. 9:6-10) So when David misjudged him, Mephibosheth saw the complete picture. He did not allow David’s mistake to make him bitter. And he did not blame Jehovah for what David had done. Mephibosheth focused on what he could do to support Jehovah’s appointed king. (2 Sam. 16:1-4; 19:24-30) Jehovah had Mephibosheth’s excellent example recorded in His Word for our benefit.—Rom. 15:4.
20. How may anxiety affect some, but of what can they be confident?
20 Because of severe anxiety, some brothers and sisters feel very nervous and self-conscious in everyday social situations. They may find it difficult to be in large groups, but they continue to attend congregation meetings, assemblies, and conventions. They find it a challenge to speak to strangers, yet they talk to others in the field ministry. If that is true in your case, be assured that you are not alone. Many deal with similar struggles. Remember that Jehovah is pleased with your whole-souled efforts. The fact that you have not given up is proof that he is blessing you and giving you the strength you need.c (Phil. 4:6, 7; 1 Pet. 5:7) If you are serving Jehovah despite enduring physical or emotional limitations, you can be confident that you are pleasing Jehovah.
21. With Jehovah’s help, what will all of us be able to do?
21 Thankfully, there are differences between a literal race and the one Paul talks about. In a literal footrace in Bible times, only one person won the prize. By contrast, everyone who endures faithfully in the Christian course of life receives the prize of everlasting life. (John 3:16) And in the literal race, all the runners had to be physically fit; otherwise, they had little chance of winning. On the other hand, many of us have physical limitations, yet we are enduring. (2 Cor. 4:16) With Jehovah’s help, we will all run the race to the finish!
SONG 144 Keep Your Eyes on the Prize!
a Many of Jehovah’s servants today suffer the effects of advancing age; a number are dealing with a debilitating illness. And all of us feel tired at times. So the idea of running in a race may seem intimidating. This article discusses how all of us can run with endurance and win the race for life that the apostle Paul spoke about.
d PICTURE DESCRIPTION: Staying busy in the ministry keeps this older brother on the right Christian course.
e PICTURE DESCRIPTION: We could stumble others either by insisting that they drink more alcohol or by not limiting our own use of it.
f PICTURE DESCRIPTION: Even when bedridden in a hospital, a brother stays in the Christian race by witnessing to his caregivers.