They were walking. I couldn’t believe it as I passed them by at what seemed like lightening speed. It was the final mile of the Walt Disney World Marathon, and I picked up my pace to a sprint. After five months of training, walking was not an option. As I crossed the finish line, I collapsed in exhaustion with nothing left. Not only did my marathon experience teach me about the importance of perseverance, but it birthed a now famous, albeit likely annoying, family mantra: “The Osbornes don’t walk the final mile of the marathon! Finish strong!”
A marathon, like life, is about finishing strong. Starting is the easy part. We often get off to enthusiastically, powerful starts -- whether they be with a diet, relationship, new job, or school project. But as difficulties set in and the dust settles on the excitement, perseverance is needed -- not only in the challenges before us but also with our faith.
No one knows this better than Jordan Rice. He was young, excited about life, and head over heals in love. “It was a good time to be Jordan Rice,” he said in his March 5 sermon at Traders Point Christian Church. But tragedy struck within a year of his marriage when his new bride was diagnosed with a rare cardiac cancer at the age of 27. Ten months later, she was dead. Jordan’s life began to unravel as the realization set in. “It was the first point in my life where I felt desperately alone -- like God had left me,” Jordan said. Through his struggles, he learned that the faith he knew wasn’t enough to carry him through those difficult times. “I felt God owed me a better life because I was trying so hard,” Jordan said. “But my faith wasn’t in God, it was in my agenda for God.”
During the following grief-filled year, however, God relentlessly pursued Jordan. As doors opened up dramatically before him, Jordan’s eyes did too and his conviction slowly returned to planting a church in Harlem, New York. As God took up greater residence in Jordan’s heart, his perspective also began to change.“Faith is never circumstantial,” Jordan said. “Faith is confidence in the character of God -- in the mountains and the valleys.”
Today, Jordan leads Renaissance Church in Harlem through his gospel-centered messages and his story of hope in a God he now trusts in good times and bad. By his side in ministry and life is his new wife, Jessica, who he unexpectedly met through mutual friends a year and a half after losing his wife. Jessica, too, was widowed at a young age, and their shared experiences of loss created an instant connection and bond that led to marriage. They have also been blessed with a young son, Jameson, who is the joy of their lives.
Life is not about how we start, it’s about how we finish. I hope you, like Jordan, finish strong and run with perseverance the race set before you -- leaning on the Lord and learning each step of the way.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
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