I didn’t catch a lot of the Olympics when it aired a few weeks ago, but I managed to watch a bit. Maybe that’s why a familiar image from the track came to mind this morning as I was reading.
The image in my mind’s eye? That of a runner leaning into the finish line. When margins of victory are measured in hundredths of seconds, letting up as you approach the finish line can mean the difference between winning and losing, the difference of holding your position or dropping in the rankings. In our Christian context, I’m thinking the equivalent of leaning into the finish line is being faithful to the end.
Luke writes that because those who were following Jesus “supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately” (Lk. 19:11) Jesus told them a parable. Having seen His power — having witnessed His authority over disease, demons, and death — they were thinking that He might just be who He claimed to be, the Messiah, the Son of David, the Deliverer foretold by the prophets. Thus, as He approached Jerusalem, the place where the King would occupy the throne, they thought it must be time. Or, as we often say, they were sure they were in the last days of the last days — that the time had come for the King to return and deal with their Roman oppression.
So, the story Jesus tells is of a nobleman who goes away to receive his kingdom, telling his servants to take the resources he has left with them and
“Engage in business until I come” (Luke 19:13b ESV)
The charge wasn’t to engage until they thought they had earned enough of a return on their master’s investment. Not to engage until they were ready to retire from their jobs. Not even to engage until they thought they were in the last days of the last days, certain the kingdom would soon appear. But they were to engage until he came.
Even though they might be certain they were seeing the finish line, they were to continue to press on. To lean in. To run what had been a long race with all the determination (though perhaps with a little less vigor than when they were young) they could muster up. And for those who engaged to the end there would be the masters commendation and kingdom reward.
“Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.”
(Luke 19:17 ESV)
Faithful. Faithful in very little when compared with the vast riches of the kingdom. Faithful to the end in anticipation of the vast blessings of the kingdom.
They had engaged until the master returned. Maximized the return on his investment. Even as they may have seen the finish line approaching, they engaged to the end as good and faithful servants. Isn’t that what our Master desires of us? I’m thinkin’ . . .
My reading in Titus accentuated what I had been chewing on in Luke.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.
(Titus 2:11-13 ESV)
Trained by grace. Trained not in order to coast to the finish line, but to run with all our might until the end. Trained to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions. Trained to live lives worthy of our calling in this present age. Even as the end of the age may be in sight. Pressing on because of perpetual anticipation of His return. Leaning in even while we look to the sky. Faithful to the end.
By His grace. For His glory.