Looking Forward

     For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. – 2 Timothy 4:6-7

     “You came to see a race today. To see someone win. It happened to be me. But I want you to do more than just watch a race. I want you to take part in it. I want to compare faith to running in a race. It’s hard. It requires concentration of will, energy of soul. You experience elation when the winner breaks the tape – especially if you’ve got a bet on him. But how long does that last? You go home. Maybe your dinner’s burnt. Maybe you haven’t got a job. So who am I to say, “Believe, have faith,” in the face of life’s realities? I would like to give you something more permanent, but I can only point the way. I have no formula for winning the race. Everyone runs in her own way, or his own way.” – Ian Charleson as Eric Liddell, in Chariots of Fire

Freccia: You’re a pretty smart fella.
Moore: Ah, not that smart.
Freccia: [If] you’re not that smart, how’d you figure it out?
Moore: I tried to imagine a fella smarter than myself. Then I tried to think, “What would he do?”


     If there is no more than this, if I were to lose her, all memory of her and all the rest of my life upon the instant, still I have had all that anyone could ask. I have had love. I have had meaning. I have had my commission. I have been tested, and I did not fail.
     The last of his regrets dropped away like palpable weights.
     Andrea will be all right. Devin will see to it.
     Devin will be all right. Natalie will see to it.
     Forgive me, Rachel. Being what I was, I could never give you all that you needed. It wasn’t to be.
     Thank You, God. Thank You for all of it. All the failure, all the pain, all the triumph and all the joy. I have been truly blessed.

     [The Sledgehammer Concerto]

     Aristotle told us that we cultivate the virtues by practicing them. In this regard the virtue of perseverance is particularly challenging, for a simple reason: One must practice it continuously, at all our waking moments, all the days of our lives. (No time off for bad behavior. 😁) We get no pass for weariness, disappointments, or distractions. There is no formula, as Ian Charleson’s Eric Liddell character tells his listeners.

     But completing the race is all that’s required for eternal bliss.


     Every man’s faith is tested. It’s built into the thing, for as Pope Benedict XVI has told us, faith is inseparable from doubt. Anyone who adopts a faith must expect to be afflicted by doubt at least some of the time. Many persons seek to inflict doubts upon us who believe.

     To persevere in faith is the critical test of the virtue of perseverance.

     Temporal perseverance is coupled to the virtue of hope: the conviction that by persevering, we might yet win through to a better state of affairs. The specifics, of course, will vary among us. The point is that we each need a goal: something to which we can look forward if we persevere in our efforts…and maybe get a break or two along the way.

     But life ends. Our time is short. What then? The Christian faith incorporates an infinitely attractive “what then” for those who persevere, and an infinitely horrifying alternative for those who do not. That’s what the Christian looks forward to. It’s the ultimate reason for the theological virtue of hope.

     This reaves the prospect of death of its horror, and not just because something infinitely better could follow. Alongside that, it puts a limit to the period through which we must persevere. We won’t be tested throughout eternity; only for the span of a human life, seldom as long as a century. The race will have a definite end.

     To complete the race is to win it. No one who crosses the finish line on his feet will be excluded from the winner’s circle.


     That’s all for this morning: just a few thoughts on a particularly challenging virtue and the tests the Christian faces in striving to cultivate it. They struck me as appropriate to our time, in which many of us – perhaps most – are being tested in ways we did not foresee and about which we can do little. Temporal tests are also tests of the spirit: to maintain hope in the face of persistent difficulties, aware that all trials must end.

     They will end, you know. You can outlast them. No matter how difficult the present, it lasts only for an instant. An interval so short it’s gone before you can finish pronouncing its name.

     May God bless and keep you all.


Skip to comment form

    • jwm on October 23, 2022 at 10:38 AM

    Thank you for this. It was exactly what I needed to hear this morning. Got me all misty, n’ stuff.

    Blessings on you and yours, Fran.



    • SteveF on October 23, 2022 at 2:14 PM

    Aristotle told us that we cultivate the virtues by practicing them.

    This morning my mid-teens daughter told me* that several classmates apparently think she’s cool because she doesn’t get flustered and doesn’t just babble pointlessly like all of the other girls**. She told me that she’s very often in turmoil inside but makes sure to act as if she isn’t. That’s what the others see.

    Which is what I’ve been telling her for years to do: If you’re afraid, act as if you’re not afraid and that will reduce or eliminate the fear, moreso the more you do it. I never referenced Aristotle or other philosopher or self-help guru because I didn’t think it would add any weight to my advice.

    Which means that she actually listened to me??? Coulda knocked me over with a feather, gotta tell ya.

    I didn’t say that to her, of course. I told her, “That’s what they call ‘winning’. Keep it up.”


    * During a drive home from an overnight at a friend’s house. No wifi, so the iPad didn’t have connectivity, which meant that she didn’t easy distractions. Oh, the horror! Which meant that she had to have a conversation with one of her parents. Oh, the suffering!

    ** Not a reticence she demonstrates at home, alas.

    • James Archer on October 23, 2022 at 2:55 PM

    I’m 72 and am long past my high energy times.  I’ve always been a hard worker and very driven, I’m still driven just no where near as capable.  I have a friend who I used to work with who is in her early 40s who is noticing that she is slowing a bit.  I told her it was just starting, that I have moved from accomplishing with energy to accomplishing through determination.  Pain is just another annoyance to be disregarded.  Older relatives drove themselves till the end caught them at a very advance age.  I won’t live as long as they did but I’m starting to believe that the internal push will never end as long as life lasts.

    • pc-not on October 23, 2022 at 10:18 PM

    Very appropriate, Fran.  Our adult Sunday school class has been in I Timothy for a while.  The regular leader was out of town this weekend, so he asked me to fill in.  Had prepped to do all of chapter 4, but we really got wound up and only got through the first 5 verses.  So much meat in the scriptures, especially when comparing our present sad state of affairs to what the early Christians were dealing with.

    Incidentally, you reminded me of one of my all-time favorite movies, Chariots of Fire.   They certainly don’t make ’em like that anymore.

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