The Longest Time

Dan Howard   -  

What do you think the worst time for a marathon ever was? A lot of people never find the finish line, the race is too difficult. But, from start to finish, what do you think the worst time ever was? I can tell you. Officially the slowest marathon time ever: 54 years, eight months, six days, eight hours, 32 minutes and 20.3 seconds. In 1912, an Olympic marathoner from Japan just disappeared right in the middle of the race. Supposedly he stopped to get a drink at an outdoor party and ended up staying longer than he meant to. Once he realized how long he had spent, he was too embarrassed to finish the marathon, and quietly went back to his hotel and left for Japan the next day. In 1966, he finally returned to finish the run he started.

54 years, eight months, six days, eight hours, 32 minutes and 20.3 seconds
That is a LONG time. But he did finish. It did come to an end.

As Christians we have our own lament. Every time something bad happens I hear someone say “I wish Jesus would just come back.” Or “Jesus, come quickly.”  Or “Jesus, when is this all going to end?”

Part of us really wants it to be all over, like the disciples in Matthew 24 (ESV):
As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

Jesus reply assures us we will have struggles in this world, and that being a Christian will not be easy. And it is going to take a lot of waiting.  We will struggle and some will even be martyred for their faith. So where do we find hope? What keeps us striving forward? It is the knowledge that He is coming back. He will return in all his power and majesty. The world will see His might.

But I want to challenge you with a thought here. While it is not wrong to want the kingdom of God here now (after all, we do pray “Come Lord Jesus”, and “Thy Kingdom Come”) should that be our go to response? Should the world end now, how many people would not know the saving news of the Gospel? In my haste to find relief from the struggles of this world, am I thinking of my neighbor? I put this thought forward not to cause you guilt, but to challenge and encourage you onward. I struggle in this world just as you do. I proclaim the good news and endure the hardship because every moment given is another opportunity to tell another individual that I am not going to hell because of God’s amazing grace. That grace is theirs as well. If Christ can endure a crucifixion out of His great love for us, can I not endure this world for my neighbor? For the sake of the Great Commission?  Might I not proudly endure this pain if it furthers the Kingdom of God here?

Again, I don’t want you to read this and experience guilt. It’s not about the guilt, it’s about the being a messenger of hope.
Because of Jesus death and resurrection:
I can endure the pain of this world for the sake of the Gospel.
I can risk the scorn of my neighbor, if it means giving them the chance to know the love of their savior.

Or as Paul puts it:

Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect; that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. – 1 Timothy 2:20 (ESV)

The reason for his writing, the context is important. Paul is awaiting his execution. You don’t waste words on death row. Yet he calls on Timothy to be strong; to endure. In verse 3 he calls on him to share in the suffering. Paul sees his sufferings, his ministry, and his tireless work during his many journeys, as means God has used to bring His children to salvation. Preaching, teaching, ministering, loving your neighbor and defending the faith–all are means used by God to bring His people to know salvation. Paul even sees his impending execution as something that can be used to bring God glory. It’s a lot to think about. It goes against our human nature. So as you think about it, I leave you with these words from Philippians 1 (ESV)

Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.  Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. 

We get older, but we do not move towards death, but an eternity of love.
Be Patient. Live Bold, Live love, and know that you are held by the creator of the universe.

-Pastor Dan