Christian Devotionals

"Finish the Race"

"Finish the Race" We've all heard the old saying "Winners never quit and quitters never win." You may have heard this from your grandparents, parents, teachers, friends, a spouse or all of the above. That's because life can get pretty tough at times and we get discouraged. We face a problem or challenge that seems insurmountable and we're tempted to drop back and punt. Fortunately, God puts people in our lives at strategic times and places to encourage us to keep going.

Several years ago, the Lord revealed to me that I was a quitter. I had always been relatively successful by the world's standards and wasn't quite sure where God was going with all of this quitter stuff. It was during a quiet time, however, that He brought back memories and instances where I gave up prematurely. I gave up on sports, relationships and jobs. Sure, I can blame it on my father being gone for not sticking with baseball or come up with very sound arguments for leaving a company when my expectations weren't met, but God would not hear of it. He let me know that I quit when I didn't get my way or worse, when I was afraid of failure. Yes, I had such a tremendous fear of failing that I either quit prematurely or never even attempted the feat in the first place. Worst of all, I quit on relationships. If someone hurt me or let me down, they were cut off - out of my life forever. I had been hurt so many times that I just didn't have time for the pain as the old Carly Simon song goes. Incidentally, the Lord brought all of this to my attention when I was contemplating quitting this ministry and going back to the corporate world. No matter how much I justified this decision to leave the ministry - whether it be for my family's financial well being or that I was simply not worthy of serving God - my Boss would not let me quit this time. I may have considered quitting on Him, but He wasn't about to quit on me. Praise the Lord that He believed in me when I didn't believe in myself. That's because God had confidence in what He could accomplish in me and through me. So with God's help and in His power, I broke this cycle of quitting and stuck it out.

It would be nice to report that things took off in our ministry and we all lived happily ever after, but that would be a fairy tale. I was diagnosed with stage IV cancer and the plans that I had for this ministry came to a screeching halt. This would have been an opportune time for the old Joe Rieger to throw in the towel and give up on the ministry and God as well. After all, how could God allow this to happen, especially after I continued in ministry and didn't go back to a well paying business career? The devil tried to turn me against God and also have me give up on what would become the battle of my life. But things were going to be different this time and I was determined to trust God and persevere in His power, not my own. This wasn't the time to surrender, it was a time to dig in my heels and fight the good fight. The Lord, my family, my friends and I would persevere together and achieve victory. This may not be victory as the world defines it, but victory as the Lord Jesus Christ would have it. You see through this illness, Jesus is using me in ways that I would never have dreamed possible. Together we are reaching people that I would never have met before. Moreover, He's bringing about positive changes in my character that can only come about through trial by fire. And I would be a liar if I said that this perseverance business isn't hard work, but in the words of legendary football coach Vince Lombardi: "The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender."

Maybe you're in a place right now where you're considering quitting - quitting school, a career or giving up on a spouse, a parent, a friend or on God. It may seem that you have just cause, but this isn't the solution. Jesus loves you and wants to help you overcome your struggle and achieve the victory that He has in store for you. Ask Him for help. Cry out to the Lord who created you and let the One who declared, "It is finished," enable you to persevere and finish your race.

"Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
Hebrews 12:1-2 (New International Version)

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