I'm overjoyed when a job is finished. When I see the end results, I feel a sense of fulfillment. I am complete when the job is complete. Being a "Type A" guy, I like the feeling of accomplishment.
I'm convinced that's how we should approach the end purpose of our Christian journey. That's why Paul placed this discussion in athletic metaphors. Toward the end of his life he wrote, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith" (2 Tim. 4:7).
Perhaps we don't talk about this goal because we fear that such a focus will cheapen our current motivations. C. S. Lewis addresses this very issue:
"We are afraid that heaven is a bribe and that if we make it our goal we shall no longer be disinterested. It is not so. Heaven offers nothing that a mercenary soul can desire. It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to."
We must remember that we were called to the race for a reason. We're not in this journey to "get" rewards, but we persevere because of the ones already promised. So when it gets tough, keep going. When the battle is rough, keep advancing.
I'm reminded of a story Gary Inrig tells about the 1976 Olympics. A Japanese gymnast, Shun Fujimoto, broke his knee in team competition. Everyone assumed he would withdraw. To the crowd's surprise on the following day Fujimoto competed in his final event, the rings. His routine was excellent, but the critical dismount was ahead. Fujimoto never hesitated—there was silence as he landed with tremendous impact on his knee. Then came thundering applause as he stood firm and erect. Afterward he replied, "The pain shot through me like a knife. It brought tears to my eyes. But now I have a gold medal and the pain is gone."
We should look forward to that time of spiritual reward. That is why Paul didn't simply say we are in a race, but encouraged us to press on toward the goal: "Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing" (v. 8).
Don't quit now. Stay strong. The finish line is just ahead. Rewards await the pure in heart.