1 Corinthians 9:24-27 – Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
The dedication involved in participating in an Olympics event or an "Ironman" competition is incredible. A friend who participated in the "Ironman Canada" race in Penticton, British Columbia, trained all winter, spending unimaginable hours swimming, cycling and running unbelievable distances. The athletes' worst nightmare is an injury or an accident on the course, such as happened to Carol Montgomery and Simon Whitfield in this year's Olympics.
At the refreshment stop in the Ironman race where we helped, after most of the cyclists had passed by, the volunteers who had been passing out drink bottles began to dismantle their site. Just as another cyclist was approaching, the wind toppled over a sign announcing what was available at that station. The cyclist swerved to miss it, lost his balance, and crashed to the road surface, using his left hand to break his fall. The bones in his two smallest fingers broke right through the skin, and an ambulance was called. When the paramedics arrived, the man begged them to bandage up the wounded fingers and let him continue the race. Knowing the extreme health hazard of an open wound exposed to pavement and unsterilized ice water, they refused, knowing that he would probably require orthopaedic surgery and be on an antibiotic drip for 24 hours.
Think of the anger and disappointment that that man experienced when he could not finish the race. Think of all the hours he had invested that were now next-to-useless. Consider the extreme desire that he had, to risk even his health, in pursuit of his goal of finishing the race. He didn't even have a hope of winning — just finishing.
When the Apostle Paul draws an analogy between a race and the Christian life, it makes me wonder about the motivation that many of us have when it comes to our desire to make a strong finish to that great race. How easily we can become disillusioned with churches when something happens there that hurts us. How quickly we can become tempted to give up on God when He doesn't answer "Yes" to our prayers. Yes, the Christian life is a great race and we need to regain that strong desire to cross the eternal finish line, at all costs.
If only that man could know that his accident was not useless — it has served as an inspiration for me and you and thousands of Daily readers! In God's economy, nothing is ever wasted.
Acts 20:24 – However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me — the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.
Prayer: Lord God, inspire us with the same Spirit that motivated Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame. May we be able to finish our great race of life with Paul's words, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." Amen.