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Saturday, 01 July 2017 15:49

The Devil at the Finish Line

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Having grown up in, around and immersed in sports since I was a little kid, The Finish Line has always been a big part of my life. Whether it was when I raced Junior Dragsters on the Bonneville Salt Flats and at the old Bonneville Speedway or racing bobsleds for over twenty years, racing towards that goal required extreme focus, quick reflexes, an agile mind and so much more. 

Kind of like life, right? 

As a keynote and motivational speaker I often compare our life's journey to a bobsled ride. There are thrilling rushes, frustrating setbacks, times of courage and moments of fear. Sometimes you hear the voice of the cheering crowds and others you worry that your big mistake is out there for all to see. Some races you win and some you lose, but you learn from both outcomes. 

But at the end of the day, win or lose, and I emphasize this when speaking to youth groups and sports teams, you always, always shake your opponents hand and thank them for the game, because without them, there can be no competition. 

I'm currently working on a few keynote speeches that I have to give this Summer and as i was writing about this very topic, I had a strange though: will I shake the Devil's hand once I cross the eternal finish line? 

Now, I know what you're thinking: "He's the bad guy, the villain. He's tried to ruin your life and tempt you and lead you astray. He is full of hate and malice and loves to see you miserable. Why would you EVER shake his hand?" 

Because he is going to help me reach the finish line in an even better state than I could on my own. Follow me on this. 

When we are doing sprint training for bobsled, it helps to run alongside someone who is slightly faster than we are in exercises known as Partner Interval Training. This causes you to push yourself harder to keep up and even beat them. Thus, you get faster when someone is there egging you on, even if just by running beside you. Coaches do this, trainers do this and good teammates do this. As athletes, we grow through such opposition. A lost race teaches us knew things. Heavier weights helps us grow faster and stronger. An injury helps us play smarter next time and teaches us to value our bodies and health even more. Even making a huge mistake in front of an even bigger crowd can be a learning experience if we let it. 

What does all this have to do with the Devil? Well, every time he tempts us, and we resist, we grow stronger (hint: think of resistance exercises in the gym). When he tries to put doubts in our minds about God or life or our own worth, it gives us a chance to strengthen our faith or personal resolve or deepen our feelings of divine worth. When he distorts the truth, it provides an avenue in which we can dive into truth doctrine and "see things as they really are" (Jacob 4:13). When he laughs at our sins, it gives us the opportunity to feel the depth of the Savior's love for us and experience his cleansing forgiveness. When he smiles at our pains, we can grit our teeth and rise up and try again and find soothing comfort from Heaven's grace. For every obstacle the Devil puts in our way as we head towards the finish line, there is an opportunity to learn and grow and gain in wisdom and strength. 

Opportunities that we would not have if he were not putting them in our path. Think about that. While he is trying so hard to make us suffer and slow us down as we head towards that Celestial finish line (and yes, he does succeed at times), the ironic thing is that the Devil is actually providing us with learning experiences that we would not have if he was not there to "run alongside us" as it were. His continual efforts to "win" and "score on our goal" keep us vigilant and focused (hopefully) and remind us of the importance of spiritual health and vigor. 

So yes...I think when all is said and done and the hurts and struggles of this life are past, I AM going to shake the Devil's hand and say, "Thank you for providing the competition I needed to become my best and make it here to Heaven." It may sound crazy, but he is my brother after all and as evil as he may be, his opposition is propelling me forward towards my highest potential (as long as I choose to let it do so). 

Jeremy C. Holm

Author & American athlete Jeremy C. Holm has spent over half his life in the fast-paced winter sport of bobsled, including as the Head Coach for the US Adaptive Bobsled Team. He has a degree in Journalism and is pursuing a degree in Military History at the American Military University. In addition to motivational speaking and corporate appearances around the world, Jeremy is the author of three books and spends his time camping, hiking, writing and trying to make history, one day at a time.

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