Wednesday, September 21, 2011

When We Finish our Race What Will be Said of Us?

The cemetery at the Church of the Holy Rood
Stirling, Scotland
     Who would have thought that tombstones and memorials could tell a story?  I never thought so until our recent trip to Europe.  We went to many cathedrals and visited an old graveyard beside a church.  Instead of listing only a name and the dates they were born and died, these folks from long ago wrote about the person who was buried at the site.  I was most impressed with the memorials to those who gave their lives for their beliefs.  In the Cathedral of St. Giles in Edinburgh, Scotland, there was a tomb of a man who had served the king but was ultimately beheaded for his Reformed faith.  Other cathedrals had memorials to women who were listed not only as beloved wives but also as god-fearing women who died in the faith and touched other lives.  What a beautiful tribute to a life, and I thought to myself how much I want that to be said of my life as well.
Archibald Campbell beheaded for his Reformed faith
St. Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, Scotland
     When we finish this race, what will be our legacy?  Obviously, the graves of those I observed had made it their life's ambition to live for Christ, and to this end we are all called.  In his letter to the Corinthian church, the Apostle Paul uses an athletic metaphor to describe how we are to run with perseverance in our Christian life:  "Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize?  So run that you may obtain it.  Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.  They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.  But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others, I myself should be disqualified" (I Cor. 9:24-27).
     Paul's use of this metaphor is effective in that an athlete has to discipline himself/herself in order to reach their goal.  It requires perseverance, single-mindedness and determination.  Our mindset, if we are to make an impact on our world, is to look only at the goal of our high calling in Christ.  With every activity that we do, we need to remember our purpose is to glorify God in word and deed.  The people whose graves I visited lived their lives in this manner.  They made a difference in their sphere of influence, and the testimony is written in stone - literally.
     In his letter to Timothy, Paul further expands on this idea of focusing on the goal:  "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing" (2 Timothy 4:7-8).  This is the testimony which each of us needs to strive for in our own lives.  It is not how we built our business, made the most money, had the biggest house on the block, or became a famous person.  Instead, we are to reflect the character of Jesus Christ in our lives so that others might be drawn to Him.
The tombs of a husband and wife in a chapel wing of the
Church in Stratford on Avon
     We run our race well when we do not neglect three disciplines:  fellowship, Bible study and prayer.  These are the key training elements which we must embrace in order to face the challenges that come our way in life.  Training for a race is not easy.  No one said it would be.  In fact, Jesus said that we would face tribulations in this life, but He also told us to be of good cheer because He has overcome this world.  With the Holy Spirit as our trainer, we do have what it takes to live a legacy before our family, community and church.  As we lift up our Lord before others, He will one day lift us up as well.
     I desire to have my epitaph reflect a faithful life that to the end glorified Christ.  How about you?  May we make it our goal to finish well the race set before us.  Selah!

I welcome your thoughts and insights here.  Please feel free to leave your comments.


Petra said...

You're right. John 16:33 is one of my favorite verses, and John 14:27 also comes to mind. Blessings!

Barbara Thayer said...

Thank you for those verses Petra. Love them and find great comfort in knowing that God holds us in the hollow of His hand. We can surely trust Him day in and day out. I always appreciate your thoughts.

Christina said...

Barbara!!! I so love what you have written here! Yes, that is my hearts desire to. By God's grace, a life of faithfulness and glory to the all Eternal God.

O Lord, Help us to remember that all things are shadows and all things are shifting but only what we do for Christ will last.

Sharing this on my wall. Love and blessings today!

Barbara Thayer said...

Dear Christina...thank you for your kind words. I was humbled as we walked through the cemetery and viewed the tombs in the churches. So many saints for diligently sought to serve the Lord. It blessed me, impressed me and made me desire to run my race with more perseverance. I am thankful for the lessons in stone that I saw on our trip. Blessings to you my dear friend!