This sermonette was delivered on August 3, 2016 during Southeastern Conference of SDA’s teachers convention.
In high school I went to a public school where I ran track and field competitively. As as athlete this verse had a special meaning to me. I interpreted it as starting the race strong, keeping the momentum, and giving it my all to the end. As a teacher the verse took on a whole new perspective.
2 Timothy 4:7 says “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” It has three components; first, I have fought the good fight; second, I have finished the race; and lastly, I have kept the faith.
Let’s break the verse down. First, I have fought the good fight. This is the tasks and accomplishments to get to where you are now. This is completing education to give you the knowledge needed, or perhaps it’s simply getting out of bed this morning. This is the strength that God provides us each and every day.
Second, I have finished the race. Each and every day is race. Each subject taught thoughtout the day is a race. In order to be successful I have to remind myself to pace myself accordingly. It’s not who finished the race first but that the race is finished. Sometimes I have reminded myself to slow down and that I need to enjoy the journey which God has me on. Finished the race is not about that I get there fast but that I get there alive and well- not only physically but also mentally and spiritually.
Think about the tortoise and the hare story. The hare went as fast as he could, which resulted in the hare burning out while the tortoise took his time. Did the tortoise get to the finish fast? No. Did he finish and enjoy the experience? Absolutely. The hare is the person who takes on responsibility and wants to get from the start to the finish as fast as possible. This is the person who becomes overwhelmed. The tortoise is the person who takes on responsibility but at an appropriate level.
Last year was my first year as a teacher and I started the second week of school. I came in overwhelmed with moving suddenly and taking a teaching position. I was getting by one day at a time – barely. I was trying to lesson plan, grade, and organize my life. I was overwhelmed – actually overwhelmed was an understatement. I would teach all day, come home, lesson plan, eat, grade, sleep, and repeat. This went on for a few months. At some point God said “relax, take time for you. It’s not a race to see who finished first, but who gets to the finish.” At that moment I said to myself “the assignments will get graded and the lessons will get planned but getting to the end mentally and spiritually while enjoying the journey is what’s important. From that point on I tried to remember that it’s a race to the finish not who first. Everyone that reaches the end goal (the finish line) are all winners in God’s eyes. .
Last but not least, I have kept the faith. This is your attitude but beyond that it’s your faith. Without a positive attitude and faith that God is with you, being successful of completing the race will be nearly impossible.
While this verse appeals to me as an athlete, and a teacher it also does so as a Christian. The Christian life is like a race- not a sprint but a marathon. Completing a marathon is not easy. When you see a person sprinting across the finish line after running a marathon ask him or her secret. The Apostle Paul was a man who ran a marathon and had energy to sprint at the end and kept on running. it’s as if he finished then saw that Timothy was struggling and so he helped Timothy reach the finish line. The words and Apostle Paul spoke gave Timothy the motivation he needed. This is true for us as Christians and as teachers. There may be times in our lives when we are the person who is running, running, and running, and our energy keeps on going- this is when we finish our race and then keep on going to help others finish their race by giving advice or motivation. Other times we may need help to finish our race and that’s when God sends help to give us the push that energizes us to keep on going to reach our destination. The person struggling may seek help or they may quietly spot along trying to reach the finish. It’s the Apostle Paul’s that need to see the struggling person and help them reach the finish line. The struggling person may be a colleague, a friend, a church member, or a student- no matter who they are as a Christian is it our duty to help when needed.
As we go into this new school year, I pray that each and everyone of you fight the fight, finish the race no matter how big or small and most importantly keep the faith.