Ironman Canada (1)

September 19, 2000

2 Timothy 4:7 – I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

The amazing come-from-behind gold medal win by Simon Whitfield in the first Olympic men's triathlon event last Saturday was a real thrill for millions around the world, especially for Canadians!

Probably the closest I will ever come to an Olympic-style competition is watching an "Ironman" race last summer. The "Ironman Canada" is the most incredibly gruelling triathlon event imaginable. It starts at Penticton, British Columbia, at 7:00 a.m. with a 3.8-km swim in Lake Okanagan, then a 180-km bicycle course over two mountain passes, followed by running a full marathon — 42 km. Most people who run a marathon alone are exhausted! The first finishers took 8.5 hours, and the last ones were still straggling in after 15 hours. What is the attraction of such insane torture, we wondered. We were amazed to see 1,800 bicycles in one place for the participants, representing millions of dollars. Why do so many come? Next year's event was even sold out the day after the race, with a CDN$500 deposit required! Undoubtedly, the major attraction is the extreme challenge — just being able to say you did it. Likewise, people climb mountains just because they are there.

But a second major reason, we were told, is because of the volunteers. There are Ironman competitions all around the world, but the one at Penticton has the reputation for being the best organized, and having the largest base of volunteers to service the many refreshment stations along the 138-mile route.

Seeing as the Apostle Paul likens the Christian life to a great race, what do these volunteers have to show us? Not all of us have the same function in the great race of life. Not all of us can be big-name evangelists, winning thousands of souls for Christ. Not all of us can be famous preachers in big-city pulpits. Not all of us can write best-selling Christian books that influence millions. But it is a gospel principle that those who volunteer along the sidelines, offering food or a bottle of cold water to the racers, are just as essential to the success of the race as the ones who actually cross the finish line. As John Milton wrote, "They also serve who stand and wait."

Matthew 10:41-42 – Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.

Prayer: Encourage us, Lord, with the knowledge that even the smallest act of kindness in assisting one of Your faithful people to run the great race is just as much a part of running the race. Thank You that in Your economy, nothing is ever wasted. Amen.

About the author:

Robin Ross <rross@telus.net>
Mission, British Columbia, Canada

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