A lot has happened in the Edwards' household in the last year or so, not the least of which is my retiring from the pastorate and going into a new phase of ministry. I know all that has happened has affected both Marie and I, and for that matter other family members as well. Deep in my heart I wanted to continue in the pastorate, but I knew it was time to give it up.
I was leading an adult Bible study at a Wednesday night meeting at First Baptist in Harrison just a few weeks after my retirement. I shared with the folks how it had become much more difficult to deal with emotionally charged issues in the pastorate now than when I was younger. A good friend and a great Christian came up to me after the study, put his arms around and said, "Ray, I believe that the greatest days of your ministry are still ahead of you." That word was a great encouragement to me.
One thing I have learned in my walk with the Lord is that it is important to finish well regardless of how we start. Paul the Apostle compared the Christian life to a race. He admonished us to finish the race and finish it to win. That means, we are to finish well, and even if we stumble and fall in the midst of the race we are to get up and go on.
Life is usually not a sprint, but a marathon and speed is not as importance as endurance. Runners tell us, however, that when they have the finish line in site all the extra strength they have is poured into their sprint to the finish. As they focus on the finish line they ignore the pain and the agony in their body as they try their best to break through the ribbon first.
But if the finish line is when God calls us home, how do we know where the finish line is? For me, it might be 5, 10, 20 years. It could be less, and might be more. I submit to you that the race of life we are in is really like the sleek, narrow boats full of rowers we saw recently in the Olympics. The rowers have their backs to the finish line, so they cannot focus on the finish line. They really cannot see where it is.
By The Way I have started reading a book entitled Finishing Strong, by Steve Farrar. In the first chapter Steve says of the rowers in these racing boats, "If they can't see the finish line and focus upon it, then how in the world can they row an effective race? The answer is that they focus on the Coxswain." He's the guy with the megaphone sitting at the end of the boat facing the crew. He's the only one who knows were the finish line is." The men listen to him, and stay focused on him as he calls out the cadence, gives encouragement, and challenge and leads them across the finish line.
In this boat of life, Jesus is the Coxswain, and each of us are rowers. Hebrews 12:2 says "keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God's throne(HCSB.) We must fix our gaze on Him as he instructs and encourages us and one day leads us across the finish line and suddenly we find ourselves absent from earth but present in our heavenly home.