TONY ELDER: Keep a steady pace with Jesus in the race of life

It's a big weekend for NASCAR fans as the Daytona 500 will be run. Danica Patrick made history by driving the fastest qualifying lap, making her the first woman to have the pole position for the race.

For those of us who aren't avid followers of car racing, that means she will be starting out in what is considered to be the best position on the track -- the inside car on the front row.

So why is winning the pole position so significant? For one thing, there are some racing advantages to beginning out in front of the pack. Secondly, I understand that it usually results in a financial bonus of some kind. Thirdly, it's simply a prestigious achievement.

But finally, it indicates that the car you're driving is among the fastest on the field, meaning that you're likely to be a contender for the winner's circle.

Although being in this prime position as the race begins has its advantages, it doesn't mean that you're going to win the race. It's possible, and even likely, that someone else will pass you and take the lead at some point.

You will still have to drive fast, smart and skillfully. There will still be obstacles to overcome and crashes to avoid. The winner isn't the one who starts in first place but the one who finishes on top.

That's good for us to remember, too, as we follow the Lord.

Some of us may have begun this journey in what appeared to be the pole position. We had certain advantages, such as being born to Christian parents, being brought up attending a good church, or putting our faith in Christ at a young age. Or maybe it was just that whenever we received the Lord as Savior, we raced out of the pack with our wheels spinning in excitement and our hearts fueled with a passionate love for Jesus.

It's certainly great to get off to a good start. But that doesn't guarantee us a successful finish.

After following this course for a while, there will be temptations to grow complacent and slow down. There will be obstacles which could hinder our progress. There will be dangers which could result in serious crashes.

We're going to have to keep going with watchfulness, faith, dependence on God, and the enabling power of the Holy Spirit.

The main question isn't how we began, but where are we today and how well will we finish. Do we still have a passion for the Lord? Are we keeping close fellowship with Him? Are we living in obedience to His Word? Are we still moving forward in our relationship with Him and in our service to Him?

Someone might suggest that if finishing is the important thing, than why not just live however you want now and simply make sure you get back on track when you see the flag signaling you're on the last lap?

For one thing, that plan, even if it is successful, will result in a life full of missed blessings for you, along with missed opportunities to honor God and affect others for Him. Additionally, we could find ourselves getting stuck in some deep ruts from which it will be hard to escape later in life even if we want to do so.

Furthermore, we don't always know when our race may be over. The fact that it could end any time without warning means we always need to be prepared.

We know where Danica Patrick is starting Sunday's race. We'll have to wait and see where she finishes.

Wherever we started our journey with Christ, let's make sure we're still racing well today, and that we do so all the way to the checkered flag.

The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Wesley Community Fellowship Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by email at RevTElder@aol.com.