I used to run a bit at school, but in my younger years. Then I got to the stage where I didn’t like running so much. I much prefer walking.
As for watching athletics, it was one of the few things my Dad would watch on TV. So I watched races and was duly intrigued by some of the stories in the races and behind the races. I remember 1988 and the furore behind the 100m final.
There was Carl Lewis, the great hope of America, up against Linford Christie, the great hope of Britain and against Ben Johnson, the great hope for Canada. Johnson won the race, claimed the gold and the adulation of his nation. Then subsequent tests showed that Johnson had ingested illegal performance enhancing drugs and in shame and scandal he had to relinquish his gold medal. He had been disqualified.
Almost 30 years later, there is still a strong degree of disgust at using performance enhancing drugs to gain an unfair advantage in the sport. Some competitors insist drug cheats should never be allowed back in the sport again. The degree to which mercy, forgiveness and restoration is lacking in this particular area is telling in the sport. Cheating spoils it for others who work hard, train diligently and apply themselves to run to win within the rules.
And that’s for a medal and a title that is temporary. The gold medal winner in 1988 is not the winner in 2008 or 2028. Time moves on, Lewis last week, becomes Michael Johnson yesterday, becomes Usain Bolt today and becomes another sporting great tomorrow.
Meanwhile there is another race the Apostle Paul referred to – a race to gain a crown that never perishes. Paul takes this race so seriously that he dare not do anything to see himself disqualified and he will get his body under control so he can be in it to win it.
That desire to be so careful in the race reminds me of the sobering words of Jesus that many will claim him as Lord, but be disqualified because He does not know them for being anything other than workers of lawlessness. They can boast all they want of the accomplishments they have racked up ‘in his name’ and still be disqualified for something a whole lot worse than using performance enhancing drugs.
I recognise how easy it is to encourage others to be faithful while I am being faithless. Talking a great talk, whipping up an enthusiasm for godly pursuits, while I am slowly sinking into a prideful selfish abyss of delusional and deceptive decay. The mercy of God has been rich in my life to wake me up to the futility and folly of the hypocrisy. To the point that when I recognise the symptoms beginning to sprout in my mind not only do I desperately pray, but I know that I need the help of my brothers in Christ to hold me up and restore me to right paths. I appreciate the support from within and without. Left to myself, I know that I wouldn’t be around and aware enough to write these words. God in His grace extends opportunity after opportunity to get on with the race and run to win.
That same grace propels me to encourage others in doing whatever it takes to focus on the only race that matters. Get ready for it. Train for it. Go for it. Do it in such a way that after you encourage others, you won’t be disqualified.
I would certainly prefer that race than athletics.
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden