The moment you believed in Jesus Christ, the spiritual race began for you. Some of you are just beginning, and others have been running for quite a while.

My son Christopher has already finished his race, and his old dad is still running. And as I get older, I think about finishing this race more than ever.

In his final words to the leaders of the church of Ephesus, the apostle Paul wrote, “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24 nkjv).

I know of some who have not finished their race with joy. People who seemed strong in the faith when I first believed, but who “crashed and burned” in the race of life. They have gotten off track or, in some cases, even self-destructed.

We see this in the Bible as well. King Saul comes to mind. He would have been a good politician: tall, handsome, charismatic, and, I might add, anointed by God to be the king. Prophesying with the prophets, he had incredible potential.

Everything was going Saul’s way, and if he had just obeyed God, it would have been great. But he disobeyed God repeatedly and allowed pride, and eventually paranoia and jealousy, to consume him. This led to a series of sins, causing God to reject him.

The once-great King Saul met a tragic end at the battlefield having, in his own words, “played the fool and erring exceedingly” (1 Samuel 26:21 nkjv).

In the end, he really had no one to blame but himself. He started his race well, but his finish was a disaster.

Or we think of the mighty Samson, supernaturally blessed with super-human strength and able to vanquish his enemies with relative ease. But like all people, Samson had his vulnerabilities. He was a “He-Man” with a “She-Weakness.” A series of compromises took place in his life, starting with marrying a nonbeliever and ending up with a prostitute who took him down “hooker, line, and sinker.” It culminated in a one-way trip to Delilah’s Barber Shop. He too did not finish his race well.

I could go on with the stories of men who did not finish the race of life well. But Paul wanted to be of the company of those who “finished their race with joy,” joining the ranks of those who finished in God’s “Winners’ Circle.” Men like Caleb, whose incredible story is found in Joshua 14. Or Daniel, who wouldn’t compromise, even in his 80s.

Let’s commit ourselves to finish what we have begun, remembering this: the race of life is not a quick sprint, but a long distance run. So run well!