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      Nurturing people in the image of God since 1868.                                                                          POB 397/520 Dry Creek Rd./Smithville, TN

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Are You a Starter or Are You a Sticker?

It goes without saying that in almost any endeavor there will be more starters than finishers. The 112th running of the famed Boston Marathon April 21, 2008 was no exception. According to the statistics page of the website www.bostonmarathon.org, this year 25,283 people officially entered the race. On race day, 22,375 started the race. Twenty-six grueling miles and at least one Heart-Break Hill later 21,963 finished. That's a finish rate of 98.2 percent, which is excellent indeed. But for varying reasons, 412 people who started the race did not stick with it till the end. There are always more who start than stick!

Are you a starter or a sticker? Thirty-six years in the New Testament church has taught me that not everybody who starts the Christian race sticks with it. Check it out in any congregation of the church of Christ — large or small, urban or rural, black or white, in North or South America or Africa or India or in Europe or Asia — every congregation has more starters than stickers! Not everyone baptized into Christ sticks with it. For varying reasons, some people who come into Christ don't stay in Him. People who started down the way of the cross leave it long before reaching the promised crown awaiting those who stick with it till the end (Revelation 2:10b; Galatians 6:9). Whether talking about attendance or prayer or reading the Bible or giving sacrificially and living as a Christian — every congregation witnesses more people who start than stick. Whether husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, elders, deacons, preachers or soul-winners — for reasons that range from titanic to trivial, there are, sadly, more starters than stickers. Faith fades, love languishes, dedication dwindles, and they don't stick to what they started.

Jesus stuck with it, all the way from the cradle to the cross and then beyond, and Heaven admonishes us to keep our eyes on Him lest we grow weary and drop out of the race (Hebrews 12:1-3). The apostle Paul not only started the Christian race, but finished it gloriously and victoriously after having run a grueling and punishing course for many years. Near the end of his life he confidently wrote, "I have finished the race" (2 Timothy 4:7). Those are the words of a sticker, not just a starter. Three little but powerful words from Paul encourage all who start with Christ to stick with it: "WE FAINT NOT" (kjv 2 Corinthians 4:1b, 16a). No matter where you are in the race, no matter how far or how little you have to go, no matter how easy or how hard it is, God's will for you is to stick with it till you finish. An unknown poet said it this way: -OH, ITS EASY TO BE A STARTER. LAD, BUT ARE YOU A STICKER. TOO? Ms FUN, SOMETIMES, TO BEGIN A THING. BUT HARDER TO SEE IT THROUGH. . . .SOMETIMES A FAILURE IS BEST. DEAR LAD. To KEEP YOU FROM BEING TOO SURE: SUCCESS THAT IS BUILT ON DEFEAT, YOU KNOW, WILL SOMETIMES LONGEST ENDURE. . . .TIS THE STICKER WHO WINS IN THE BATTLE OF LIFE. WHILE THE QUITTER IS LAID ON THE SHELF: You ARE NEVER DEFEATED, REMEMBER THIS - UNTIL YOU LOSE FAITH IN YOURSELF. . . .0H, IT'S EASY TO BE A STARTER, LAD, BUT ARE YOU A STICKER, TOO? You MAY THINK IT A GAME TO BEGIN A TASK: ARE YOU GAME TO SEE IT THROUGH?" How about it? Are you a starter or a sticker?!

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ