As I’ve shared previously, high school wasn’t my favorite place growing up. Up until that point most of us enjoyed the same things living in Northern N.J.   When they wanted to start staying out later, I did it. I adopted everyone’s music and went where they wanted to go. When they wanted to join the high school Cross Country team, I reluctantly went along with it. The course included 2 demoralizing obstacles. One was called Heartbreak Hill and the other Agony Hill.

It was daunting. I pulled back from these 9th grade friends a few months later because smoking, drinking, and drugs became prevalent. I was already the youngest 9th grader, so I was not as mature as the others, but none of these things appealed to me. I wanted to fit in, but not in that way. I often wondered if this decision was wise or stupid. Some would call this brave. I sure didn’t feel brave at the time. Maybe I could pretend to smoke or drink and no one would notice? At the end of the day, those friends quit the Cross Country team they insisted we all join together (and quit me) and started doing the things I said no to. I wanted to still play sports, though I would’ve picked one of the other Fall sports like Football or Soccer. I was a terrible long distance runner, but by the end of the Fall season, I’d fought to finish every race. I finished as high as 2nd, and then 6th in the state championship. The hard part for me was explaining to Coach Neagle that I wanted to compete in a different sport. The other guys had decided they would not be returning and wanted to do other things. The coach was very disappointed. I went to Coach Neagle and explained I wanted to play Soccer instead. He was appreciative that I came to him and discussed my decision and gave me his blessing. I joined the Soccer team in 10th grade. Cross Country turned out to be a blessing though, as my stamina was higher than my teammates. Running was the easiest part of the sport.   Sure enough, those ex-friends didn’t return to the Cross Country team or any other sport in 10th grade, and I was ghosted the rest of high school.

Tony started his lesson in 1 Tim 4:1-8Paul, as he was leaving on his missionary journey, spent time warning and teaching the disciples. He’s given his life for the gospel and nearing his end. Paul “fought the good fight” and “finished the race”. How does someone win at the Christian life? Christianity would not be like other sports, like football or baseball. It would be more like a Cross Country race. Today we explored how to go from “ALMOST” finishing or fighting good to completing the race. Life is a struggle and Paul uses a word that comes from the word “agony” to describe fighting the good fight. This is not easy very often. Choosing to do the right thing can be the hardest thing to do, where victory goes to the one who fights the hardest. If we persevere in all we do, winning IS possible. Quitting can be habit-forming. If we quit the trivial, what makes me think I won’t quit the eternal. Paul never used the word “happy”. Fighting is not about happiness. We train ourselves to be fighters instead of quitters, and it becomes easier. Paul lost everything material when he became a Christian and considered all those other things “garbage” compared to finishing the race of faith. In all things, keep the faith no matter what happens. Finishing is hard. Paul knew it, Jesus knew it. Hold on and stick with it and it will all be worth it.  Matt 19:29 says when we persevere, we will inherit 100 times more eternally. 

I’m glad now I finished that Cross Country season successfully. I taught me a life lesson. Whether it’s Agony Hill or just life’s moments of agony, the goal is the same. Fight the good fight. Don’t quit. Finish the race. That’s a WIN for God ! Have a great week !