If you are not from an island, you may not recognize what is happening in this photo. But islanders know this scene all too well – the last cars on the back of a ferry. That white car in the center is my car, the very last vehicle to be put on the ferry headed for Vancouver. I did not mind being last, for at least I was on the ferry. To be the first person to miss the ferry is far worse than being the last person on the ferry! This day we were able to make it to an appointment on time because we were the last ones on the ferry. As we drove on I looked over to my wife and said, “Sometimes being last is still a win!”
How true that is. Sometimes just getting to the finish line is a win, even if you are the last person across the line. I heard of a fellow who trained for long distance runs and then got MS. He entered a race anyway, and came dead last, not minutes but hours behind everyone else; but he finished. He might have been last, but it was still a win. He did not give up or quit.
For some people, getting over the finish line is far harder than for others. Some seem to breeze through every challenge; while for others, life is quite a struggle. We often celebrate the people who cross the finish line first, and that is great. Give them red ribbons and trophies. But let’s celebrate everyone who crosses the finish line – every student who completes grade twelve, every worker who completes another year at the job, every parent who stays with the task of raising their children, every person who loses that five pounds they want to shed. And if they are the last one over the finish line, we will still celebrate, because last is still a win if you do not give up.
I thought about another man who was last, but still ended up a winner. The last person to encounter the Lord Jesus during his earthly ministry was a thief hanging on a cross next to Jesus. This man had lived a terrible life, and he knew it, but in the last hours of his life he meets Jesus. He asks Jesus a simple request: “Remember me when you enter your kingdom.” It was a statement of faith that Jesus would reign even though he was now dying on a cross. It was a sign of hope, and submission. And in response to this request Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43 ESV).
I have no doubt I will meet this man in heaven when my journey on earth is done. He might have been last to meet Jesus in his earthly ministry but it was still a win: he found salvation through faith. So don’t worry if you are not “#1” – there is lots of room in God’s family for the rest of us who come 4th, 32nd, 105th, 1237th…. It is only that we finish the race.
– Pastor Gary