Running The Race
The winter Olympics have started. Last night I watched curling. It is truly a sport that could only have been invented in the frozen wasteland of our planet! Skiing was also featured as were previews of other competitions to come. Over the next month many contestants will stand shoulder to shoulder with others at the starting line, all with a desire to be the first one to cross the finish line. We all enjoy watching these scenes unfold. What we seldom realize, however, is how similar our lives are to the Olympics. We have many contestants clamoring for first place in our lives. They each one want to be first. These include our jobs, hobbies, relationships with others, our career advancement, accumulation of possessions, plans for retirement, and, oh yes, our relationship with God.
I recall with amusement, and some conviction, an ongoing description of a race described by Leroy Eims, a Navigator mentor to many people over the years. His comments were as follows. “They are at the Gate! God jumps out in front and takes an early lead, but career, hobbies and friends are close behind! At the turn hobbies is closing fast, while career is advancing along the rail! Friends is coming up along the outside and God and friends are neck to neck as they make the turn! Career advances to the front on the backstretch and God falls two lengths behind! As they round the final turn all four are neck and neck! God makes a final lunge at the end and wins by a nose!
Have you ever had days like that? You were running ragged with too many irons in the fire. You remember after dinner that you neglected your relationship with God most of the day so you grab a devotional book or read a chapter in the Bible, pray for a few minutes and go off to sleep, thinking to yourself, “Well, at least God won by a nose!”
Leroy brings home his point even more clearly with the following hypothetical scene. He describes it as follows. “Let’s say that I travel on a business trip to New Orleans to spend several days there with various people. As is my habit, I call my wife Virginia every night to let her know how I am getting along. The first night I call to tell her that the meetings are going well and that I have met a young lady that I am having breakfast with the next morning. The next evening I call again and tell her that all the projects are going well and that I have really enjoyed meeting this lady, so much so in fact that I had lunch and dinner with her as well. I then added ‘But don’t worry, Virginia. Your’e still number one!’” Still number one , indeed! How do you think Virginia would react? How would you react to this? More importantly how do you think God reacts when we do this to Him? What Leroy is telling us is that no one else, and nothing else, should even be in the race!
God, in fact, tells us the same thing in Luke 14:26, 27 and 33. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters-yes, even his own life-he cannot be my disciple.”(verse 26) “And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (verse 27) “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” (verse 33) Our Lord states here that relationships with others, self interest and possessions are not to enter the race. Our relationships with others, not permitting them to even enter the race, may even be regarded by hate in comparison with the love we have for Christ. Self interest is denied entry in the race by carrying our cross and following Him. Possessions, likewise, do not gain entrance because they are given up to Christ for His use.
If our race does not include others, self or possessions, then what is the purpose of the race? What does it mean to run the race with perseverance, (Hebrews 12:1) or to run in such a way as to get the prize? (I Corinthians 9:24) There is one race I love to watch and that is in the movie Secretariat. In the Belmont Stakes, all the other horses but one withdrew, and that one was really not a challenger. The race was essentially a demonstration of the beauty, strength and glory of the horse Secretariat. He created wonder, amazement and praise from the onlookers and admirers. All eyes were on him as he continued to accelerate around the course.
In many respects, it reminds me of the race that we are to run. There are no competitors. We run with the purpose of demonstrating the glory, strength and might of Christ Jesus. “We have been given fullness in Christ.”(Colossians 2:10) “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (II Corinthians 3:18) Paul says “For to me, to live is Christ.” (Philippians 1:21) He will, Himself, by His presence produce wonder and bring praise to His name. “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) As we run the race united to our Lord and Savor Jesus Christ, even the defects and problems in our lives (cracks in our jar that let His light out!) serve but to show others that it is Christ within and not our lives that contain the power that is seen. “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (II Corinthians 4:7)
This is the race that Paul was referring to in I Corinthians 9:24 and which he himself was to complete. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (II Timothy 4:7) This is the race that we are called to complete as well, making the invisible Christ visible to others so that they may see His Glory. It is my prayer that your race will glorify Him and bring praise to His name!
In Christ, Richard Spann