Race of life

[Ecclesiastes 7:8-10, 14]

I talked to my friend pastor this week. He is 48 years old, and he said that the next two years are very important to him. He seemed to be ministering with the idea that the foundation of the church must stand firm before he was 50 years old. Actually, I think if we are in our 50's and the ministry is not stable, then I see that the ministry is not really smooth. I am sure there are pastors around us who are in the 60's are struggling in their ministries. As I see some of the retired pastors, I think about how I should live my life and how I should endure ministry and pray to God. I personally thought of life as a 100 mile race as I am having fellowship with my church members who are their 90's, 80's, 70's, 60's and 50's. Of course we may not be able to live our life until 100 years but may die before that. But I thought of 100 years of life as a 100 mile race. From that point of view, I was driven by God's grace for 40 miles. Now the question is how shall I finish the race until the end? I want to learn how to run the race of the rest of my life with the five main points of the text.

First, I am taught that I must run the race of life to the end.

In Ecclesiastes 7:8, King Solomon said “The end of a matter is better than its beginning.” If we run without thinking to run to the end while racing, what will happen to the race? We must run to the end without giving up the race. And we should not just run the race when we start racing. As we run the race with the attitude of finishing to the end, our ending should be more beautiful than starting. We hear that many pastors’ end of their ministries are not beautiful and hurt many believers. When I hear about the pastors who are not able to retire graciously after their 30 years or 40 years of ministries, the word “The end of a matter is better than its beginning” (v. 8) comes to my mind as good lesson. And this lesson doesn’t apply to our pastors only. This lesson applies to all the people. The wise will listen to the God's word today and will try to finish the race beautifully not only in God’s sight but also in the people’s sight. I hope and pray that the end of our race will be more beautiful than the beginning and the fragrance of Jesus will be manifested.

Second, I am taught that I must run the race with the patient and humble heart.

In Ecclesiastes 7:8, King Solomon said “… patience is better than pride.” As we struggle to run the race of our lives toward the end, we experience a lot of situations to bear with. I think we are running the life of marathon that requires patience. We must endure the hardships and difficulties in order to finish the race of life to the end. In addition to this enduring heart, we must run the race of life with a humble heart. We must not start to run the race of life with humility and then later run the race with pride. King Saul initially considered himself small and humble, but later became proud and disobeyed God's Word and sinned against God. The king of Solomon, at first, sought wisdom to God with a humble heart, and he reigned over the Israelites well. But the last part of his life was disobedient to God's word and wasn’t beautiful at all. I am afraid of how hard it is to live faithfully in the service of the Lord with a humble heart to the end. At the beginning of the ministry, like John the Baptist, there is cry of the wilderness in our ministries. But later when we become arrogant, many pastors sin in a palace like King David. The fear is that we become arrogant without knowing it. This tells us that it is very hard to keep our heart in humility. However, those who have started running to complete the race of life must endure to the end and must keep their humility until the end. The beginning of the race of our lives must be humility and the end as well. Let us complete the race of faith with patience and humility.

Third, I am taught that I must not run the race in a rush and anger.

In Ecclesiastes 7:9, King Solomon said “Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit …”. Although I don’t know about the marathon, but I don’t think that a runner runs a marathon quickly from the start. It is because if he runs quickly from the start then he probably will never be able to finish the race. Those who have lived a lot more than I am will know well that life should never run out of haste. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we should live our lives lazily because laziness is sin. We have to run the race of life diligently. But we should not run it hastily. Also, we should not run the race of life in anger. It is easy to make an outburst when we are in a hurry. Before when I went to a nursing home to see my church grandmothers with my kids, I heard the other two grandmothers yelling and screaming at each other. I was surprised to hear them yelling and screaming and wondered what they were so angry at each other. So after we saw our church grandmothers we came out quickly because I thought it was bad education for my kids. How ugly is this that we cannot control our anger. “A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension” (Prov. 15:18). As President Lincoln said, I am now in my 40's and I have to be responsible for my face. We should not run the race of life with an angry face. In this bustling world, let us have relaxed mind and run the race of life calmly.

Fourth, I am taught that I should not run the race of life as I miss my past.

In Ecclesiastes 7:10, King Solomon says, “Do not say, "Why were the old days better than these?”. The reason is because “it is not wise to ask such questions” (v. 10). In other words, a wise person does not run the current race as misses the past. Please think about it. If a marathon runner runs the race thinking about the start of the race when he was running a little faster than now, what will happen to his race? I think too many people are long for their past that their lives are not progressing and they refuse to develop themselves. If they keep on saying “I was once …” and longing for their past, they cannot be faithful in their present lives. Also, they won’t be able to rune their race with their full potential. But the wise man runs forward, not looking back but front. There is no marathon runner who looks back. The marathon runner looks at the goal line. That’s what we must do. We must not look back when we run our race to the end. Of course, we must not forget the grace God has given us in the past. But we must never be left to that past grace. Our God is the God who gives more grace in the present than the past (Isa. 43:18-19). Therefore, we must run our race of faith by praying, expecting, and waiting for the work of God to do new things. We need to run the race, expecting more grace from God. Surely God will give us abundant grace we need.

Last fifth, I am taught that I need run the race by faith, knowing that there is a combination of prosperity and adversity in our race of life.

In Ecclesiastes 7:14, King Solomon says that God has made prosperity as well as adversity. He says that we need to be happy in the day of prosperity but consider in the day of adversity (v. 14). Why did God make these two things work together? The purpose is “so that man will not discover anything that will be after him” (v. 14). It may seem better to know what will happen in the future, but we will surely commit more sins to God if we know our future. If we know our future, we will surely become proud and not depend on God. Also, we will try to live our lives however we want. Not only can we be lazy, but we may give up our lives and live let if flow lives. I think it is better not to know the future. It is not fun to watch a soccer game if we already know the score. Actually, if know the score already, I don’t want to watch it at all. Sometimes, we don’t need to know. We don’t need to know whether there will be prosperity or adversity in our future. If there is prosperity in the future, we will be happy. But if there is adversity, we can consider. And we should not have prosperity only. If so, then we will become proud. Also, we should not have adversity only. If so, then we will commit sins against God. We have the all knowing God who gives us both prosperity and adversity in the race of our lives. We need both in the race of our lives. Then we will be able to run to the end of this race of faith as we look to God alone and praise him and give thanks to him.

When I think about this race of faith, two Bible verse came into my mind: (1) “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 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” (2 Tim. 4:7-8) and (2) “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me--the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace” (Acts 20:24). Let us all finish the race like Apostle Paul. Let us complete the race of faith. Let us run the race of faith where our end of the race is beautiful that our beginnings. Let us be patient and run to the end with humility. Let us not run the race in a rush and anger. And let us complete the race of faith by looking at the Lord who works for the good in all things, even the adversity before us. Therefore, I hope and pray that we can glorify God.