“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.”
– 1 Corinthians 9:24
Over 30,000 runners competed this year in the Boston Marathon. Over 40,000 ran in the Chicago Marathon and 50,000 are expected to run in the New York Marathon this year. Even though there are many different classifications in those races, there is only one runner who can claim to be the very best – the one with the best time of all.
The Christian race, the apostle Paul tells us, is different. We don’t compete against each other or other runners. We compete against spiritual forces that would hinder us – that would make us want to quit or give up or fail to even train for the race. But in the Christian race, each runner who finishes gets the top prize – but you’ve got to finish!
I’ll never forget the movie Chariots of Fire, the story about the 1924 Olympics and a devout Scottish Christian runner by the name of Eric Liddell. The music from the movie still rings in my ears, and almost makes me want to – well to run! Known as The Flying Scotsman, Eric Liddell’s running style was unusual in that the faster he ran the more upright his body became – until he held his head way back while looking up with a big smile on his face as he approached the finish line. He ran with abandon and worried little about style. When asked about his unorthodox running technique, he said, “God made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.”
Liddell’s specialties were the 100 meters and 4×100 and 4×400 relays. But when the qualifying heats for those events were posted at the Olympics that year, they were scheduled on a Sunday. “I’m not running,” he said. To Eric Liddell, Sunday was a day to be set apart for God, not man. He was running in a different race. After attending church, he then directed his efforts to two other races, which were not his specialties, the 200 and 400 meter sprints. Not expected to win either, he won a bronze medal in the 200 meters and ran to victory in the 400 meters, setting a world record and winning an Olympic gold medal for Scotland.
After the Olympics were over Eric Liddell finished his last race, as a missionary to China where he eventually died for his faith, while in a Japanese internment camp. As Christians, our race is a spiritual one. Unlike most events, however, where there is only one winner, God has promised the top prize for each of us – when we finish the race.
So, dear brother, dear sister, run your race with your head held high, feel the wind in your face and smile. You’re almost there, the finish line is just ahead and your prize will be a crown that will last forever. Maranatha!