As much as I heart AZ, we unfortunately do not live there. *sigh* Actually my lover and I live about one bajillion miles away from there. Not really, but it feels like that. It takes us at least 15 hours to make a trip to my parents’ house even when we’re flying down the interstate like maniacs we’re making really good time. We rarely stop and get a hotel halfway. Because we’re crazy cheap able to do that since it’s just the two of us. We stop for gas only. Eat, sleep, drive. That’s it.

One time when we went out there we did something crazy. Hello! That’s my middle name. Duh! We left one time in the evening. Now, let me do some math for you. Leave town at 10:00 p.m. Drive for 15 hours. Pout because on such an expedition John makes you drive at least half. Arrive at parents’ house at 1:00 p.m. the next day. Re-calculate math because they’re in a different time zone. Arrive at 11:00 a.m. Ring doorbell. Surprise family.

Now let me tell you, I was ex.haus.ted. But the joy of coming home, there is nothing like it. Lots of hugs and kisses, the whole family GETS REALLY LOUD, and everybody talks at once. It is such a happy time. So worth eating sandwiches on the road, needing to potty and holding it for 3 hours, and sleeping in a seatbelt. All that discomfort is totally worth it to be home.

Paul says in 2 Timothy 4:7-8,

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

Now Paul was not talking about my drive to AZ, I understand that. But he was talking metaphorically about the long journey of life. You see, this world is not the ending point for those who believe in the Lord. Jesus himself said in John 14:1-3,

Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

Jesus goes and prepares a place. And He’s going to take us there. Because this world is NOT our home. But first we must fight the good fight, and finish the race. At the end there are stored up, waiting for us, treasures in heaven. It is worth it to endure until the end. If you make a stand for the Lord the world will not like you. The world will call you a legalistic, right-winged nutjob. The world will not give you the promotion at work. The world will slam the door in your face. You must continue on.

You see, fighting the good fight doesn’t mean you just try to make it through all six rounds without getting knocked out. It means you get in there and contend for the prize. It means you go for the gold. And you keep fighting, for all your life. That takes endurance, the ability to keep going for a loooooong time. As in, forever. Building up this endurance takes discipline, and training. It’s an everyday, heart and soul training. Practically that means getting into God’s word every day, memorizing scripture in preparedness for a tough round, acting out in faith, and the list goes on…

Ohhhhh, the end. Finishing strong. I’m running a 5k this spring, my first official race ever. I intend on giving it all I’ve got. I know I’ll start out strong, taking off down the course and tackling obstacles like nobody’s business. But it would be all for naught if by the end of the race I was being carried across the finish line. Or just quit the race halfway through. With the proper training, I should have the endurance to finish strong in the end. That’s what Paul is talking about here. He’s talking about getting to the end of life and following just as hard after Christ as you did when you first gave your life to Him.

At the end of your race is a prize. More glorious than anything the world could conjure up. At the end Christ is waiting for you. My great-grandmother recently went on to be with the Lord, which is sad, she will be dearly missed. Yet even in our sadness we know that she has received her reward! She has been given a crown of righteousness! She ran the race, fought the good fight with endurance even until the very end! And now, in heaven, it’s kind of like homecoming. For us who remain on this earth it will be the same. One day our race will conclude, we will cross the finish line, and it will be like homecoming.

Like spending 15 hours in a car, eating sandwiches, having to go potty and holding it, and sleeping in a seatbelt, to come home to the waiting arms of family reunion. Only on a scale we can’t even imagine.

Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Psalm 103:1