At 7 PM, on October 20, 1968, a few thousand spectators remained in the Mexico City Olympic Stadium. It was cool and dark. The last of the marathon runners, each exhausted, were being carried off to first-aid stations. More than an hour ealrier, Mamo Wolde of Ethiopia – looking as fresh as when he statred the race – crossed the finish line, the winner of the 26-mile, 385 yard event.
As the remaining spectators prepared to leave, those sitting near the marathon gates suddenly heard the sound of sirens and police whistles. All eyes turned to the gate. A lone figure wearing number 36 and the colors of Tanzania entered the stadium. His name was John Stephen Akhwari. He was the last man to finish the marathon. He had fallen during the race and injured his knee and ankle. Now, with his leg bloodied and bandaged, he grimmaced with each hobbling step around the 400-meter track.
The spectators arose and applauded him. After crossing the finish line, Akhwari slowly walked off the field. Later, a reporter asked Akhwari the question on everyone’s mind: “Why did you continue the race after you were so badly injured?”
He replied, “My country did not send me 7,000 miles to start the race. They sent me 7,000 miles to finish it.” (1)
Archippus, much like this Olympic runner, found himslef in a position of having lost sight of the finish line. Whether he had stumbled, been injured along the way or had just plain lost his strength or vision, he had stopped running his race.
We find him mentioned only two times in the New Testament, and it is in the first that we see him being told by the Apostle Paul,
” Be sure you give Archippus this message, “Be faithful to complete the ministry you received from the Lord.”Colossians 4:17 TPT
Archippus had unfinished work that he needed to complete.
During his time, he and his family, (Philemon – probably his dad and Appia, his mom. Philemon 2) were somehow involved in the city of Colossae in advancing the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. It must not have been without opposition and hardship for there were false teachings to be diffused, traditions to be dismantled, and Christianity was not even recognized as a legetimate or legal religion.
So whether he became sidetracked, exhausted, got mad and quit or just let it slide for others to handle, we do not know. What we do know is he needed to finsih the work that the Lord had given him. He had unfinished work to complete, and Paul had to remind him to finish what he started.
His race had somehow slowed and he may have been broken and bandaged, but his race was not completed. His work for the Lord had been started, but it needed to be finished. Paul reminded Archippus to get up, get back in the race and finish what had been started.
I love the way the Hawaiian’s say it –
” Tell Archippus dis: “All da work Da One In Charge tell you fo do, you betta do um now.”Colossians 4:17 Hawaii Pidgen Bible
All da work!
If “The One in Charge” has given you a job to do, it’s best to complete it – all. All the way to the finish line. That is why He put you in the race, not just to start it, but to finish it.
I have a strong hunch that for you, my friend, there is unfinished work for you to finish. It is time to get back in the race, pick up that baton from where you left it, and run. It is time to complete that unfinished work.
Run strong and to the end,
PS- Archippus did get back in the race, because Philemon 2, which was written 2 years later, tells us that he and his family formed a church in their home. He was back at it and ministering exactly where the Lord wanted him, completeing what he had been called to do.
- Edward K. Rowell, Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching; pg. 71, Finishing Well