FAITH AND REFLECTION — If the apostle Paul were living today, I’m reasonably certain that his morning devotional time of Bible reading and prayer would be followed by checking out the sports section in the newspaper, or perhaps watching one of the sports network channels on television. I say this because of the many allusions to athletic events in his writings. His priority and interest lay, of course, in spiritual matters and the athletic events that he referred to were always employed illustratively in order to drive home a spiritual point.
The running of races seem to have been of particular interest to Paul. I wonder if perhaps he himself was a runner, for several times in the New Testament he makes mention of running and races. In 1 Corinthians 9:24 – 26 he wrote, “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…I do not run like someone running aimlessly…”
I would like to share a story about a runner. I have no idea where he was in terms of faith, but he deserves as an A+ for fortitude and staying power.
Australia once hosted the world’s longest and toughest marathon. It entailed walking the 543.7 miles from Sydney to Melbourne. In 1983, 149 world-class runners showed up for the event…and one rather ordinary looking 61-year-old. This potato farmer surprised everyone by registering for the marathon. He became runner number 64; his name was Cliff Young.
The race began and 149 well-trained runners in expensive running gear left Cliff far behind. Undaunted, in his plain clothing and work shoes, Cliff struck out with “an odd, leisurely looking shuffle.”
Five days, 15 hours and four minutes later, Cliff Young shuffled across the finish line in Melbourne winning the marathon and breaking the previous record by nine hours. The next runner showed up nine hours and 56 minutes later.
The normal protocol was to run for 18 hours and then stop and sleep for six hours. Five days of this grueling routine would bring a runner to the finish line. Cliff, having no knowledge of this routine, simply shuffled along day and night without stopping to sleep.
The Christian race that Paul referred to is not about having fancy equipment, glamorous appearance or notoriety. It is about having a love for Jesus, resulting in endurance that brings us to the finish line…running well and finishing strong!
“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:1, 2).