"Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it."
— 1 Corinthians 9:24
One thing I have found in life is that it is full of surprises. Many of them are unexpected pleasures and blessings that come our way. Others are tragic and sad. I have been greatly surprised by the way some people's lives have turned out.
I can think of individuals I have met that seemed to have no potential whatsoever. They were never expected to amount to much of anything. In school, people made fun of them, calling them "geeks" and "nerds." Now those same people are calling them "boss."
Then there are those that had so much promise—so much raw potential. You just knew they would make their mark in life because they just had that special something: talent, giftedness, great natural ability.
It might have been someone who was unusually gifted spiritually. And sure enough, their star began to rise and you could say "you knew them when." But then suddenly, seemingly without warning, their life came tumbling down.
Or they were slowly but surely sidetracked by foolish decisions and living. I have seen many talented, super-gifted people crash and burn.
This is sad, because God has a unique, custom-designed plan for each of our lives. As time passes, I find myself more impressed with character than charisma—with personal integrity than talent.
I am more impressed with someone who has, for instance, stayed with their spouse than someone who may have some huge ministry (not that you can't have both). But the key is to finish what we have started, and to finish it well, because if you run first place in a race for every lap except the last, it doesn't matter.
You have to cross that finish line and play by the rules. So run your race with all of your strength. Guard your life so that you don't get sidetracked or disqualified. And keep your eyes on the finish line.