Last July in Lausanne, Switzerland an Ethiopian runner did something that will not soon be forgotten. Hagos Gebrhiwet was running in the 5000-meter race at the Diamond League meet when he veered out of his lane toward the crowd. He then stopped and celebrated his victory – one lap too soon.

Gebrhiwet strode right past the bell for the final lap and then proceeded to raise his hands in celebration for his first-place finish, all the while his fellow competitors ran right past him. The race continued for another lap where Yomif Kejelcha crossed the actual finish line and won the race.

The 25-year-old Gebrhiwet is a world-class runner. He earned a bronze medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics and has two World Championships medals. But in this race, he didn’t run through the finish line, he stopped a lap short. After he realized his mistake he tried to make up ground but ultimately finished 10th in the event.

None of his previous victories or accomplishments could save him from the embarrassment of misjudging the finish line in Lausanne. You’re required to run through the finish line. How could a veteran runner forget where the finish line actually was?

But the same thing can happen to us as followers of Christ. This is why Paul encourages us in Philippians 3:12, “I have not yet reached my goal and I am not perfect. But Christ has taken hold of me. So, I keep on running and struggling to take hold of the prize.”

The prize is heaven and until we go there we are to keep running and striving. God has placed each of us on this earth for a reason and we are to live out our life’s purpose. It may be tempting to stop and begin to celebrate what has been done but then we won’t finish. The ultimate victory can only be achieved by finishing.

It’s not how we start, it’s how we finish that matters. Some don’t have a great start but they can have a great finish. It’s encouraging to know that God can continue to work in us our whole lives as long as we don’t stop too soon.

Finishing well is the goal. You may be weary, you may be discouraged, you may want to quit. Don’t do it. Keep running with Jesus, keep serving the Lord. There is a marvelous prize waiting for you in heaven.

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