"I never saved anything for the swim back."
Vincent challenges his brother Anton to a swimming contest. They will swim through the ocean waves until one of them relents, until one stops and turns back.
Anton is genetically superior to his brother. Vincent was conceived "the old fashioned way," one man and one woman united in one flesh. Anton was conceived in a test tube to be stronger, to live longer. Vincent, it is predicted, will not live much past the age of 30.
Yet it is Vincent who pulls ahead. Against all odds he swims farther than his physically enhanced sibling, while Anton's heart fills with fear and his lungs with salt water. Not only does Vincent defeat his brother in the swim, he also saves his life, dragging him back to shore.
When Anton demands to know how Vincent is doing this, how he is living and thriving when he is supposed to be dead, Vincent responds, "I never saved anything for the swim back."
Vincent had been told from the time that he was born that he was inferior to his brother, that he would never amount to anything, and that he would die young. And so he had nothing to lose. Why should he bother fearing death if death was his destiny?
And so Vincent channels every ounce of energy that he has into achieving something great with his life. He wishes to be a space explorer, and he succeeds.
It strikes me that in today's world there are so many people who think that death is their destiny. There is only this life, a short blip on the screen of universal history, and then there is nothing.
Yet rather than make the most of their life, they make very little of it indeed. Rather than throwing themselves into the fray, rather than striving toward some worthy achievement, they squander the little time they have in this life on fleeting pleasures that leave them feeling empty and cold; until, that is, they find the next cheap thrill. Rather than saving nothing for the swim back, they aren't even bothering to enter the water. They are just getting drunk on the beach.
This all hit me the other day as I was out running. I usually try to run two miles on Saturday, one out and one back. And I want to run them as hard as I can. But because I want to give a strong finish, I never put everything I have into the first mile. I am always saving energy for the return journey.
But what if things were different? What if I had confidence that I would make it back? What if I knew that after putting everything I had into that first mile I would find myself, not in the middle of nowhere, but at home?
This is what makes life in Christ different from all of the joyless partying that goes on these days. The Christian does not need to fear putting everything he has into the work God has given him to do. He does not need to fear death. He does not need to save anything for the return trip, because when he is done running the race he will certainly find himself at home.
That is the promise of Jesus. He gives you abundant forgiveness, so you need not fear that you have forgiven too much. He burns with unquenchable love, so you cannot burn out your love.
With His death He takes away our need to fear death. With His resurrection He promises that the grave is not our end. He will call us out of the tomb and into life that knows no end.
There is no need to save anything for the swim back. God has taken care of that in Christ. And that gives us confidence to press forward, to jump into the fray, to strive for something great, to put it all out there, knowing full well that Jesus will be there to gather us up on that Last Day, to give us rest from our labors.