So, here it is—the final race of the long NASCAR Sprint Cup season. What began in Daytona back in February is going to be resolved on Sunday as stock car racing’s top series descends on Homestead, Florida. This weekend, there will, as usual, be 43 cars on the track—but the chase for the championship is a two-horse race. In recent weeks, Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart—separated from each other by the slimmest of points margins—have distanced themselves from the rest of the pack and will battle for the Sprint Cup as the 2011 season goes all the way down to the wire. The battle between Smoke and Cousin Carl this weekend, however, is about more than just these two premier drivers. They represent teams that have worked all year for this moment. They have battled adversity, overcome mechanical breakdowns, maintained a high level of technical excellence, and stayed at the top of their game for the long, long season. Now, for one of these teams, the highest success in NASCAR is only days away—a fitting reward for the effort of a long season that has demanded their very best every step of the way. Followers of Christ should be able to relate to this. Life is a journey in which we experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. It is an ongoing battle with brokenness that takes a heavy toll and can be both discouraging and debilitating. But, we are called to endure. We are called to endure because it will be worth it someday when we receive a reward greater than any trophy or the fame and wealth it may bring. Paul wrote of this in his second letter to Timothy when he said:

Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. (2 Tim.4:8)

The challenge to us, as was the challenge to Paul, is that we endure—that we finish well. And the good news is that we don’t have to do that in our own strength. Our Lord has promised to strengthen us and equip us for the long haul. As Isaiah said:

But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint. (Isa.40:31)

In His strength, even over the long and demanding seasons of life, we can endure. And that is the only way to finish well.   Bill Crowder, Sport Spectrum Chaplain