Marathons attract all kinds of people, that fall into at least three different groups:
1. Those who run to win. Only a small number actually enter a race thinking they can come in first place. I am not in this group. (I suspect some of these people are not actually human, but aliens from a planet of Kryptonite-powered running robots. I have no proof of this.) Back in the 60s Wally Samson seemed to be in this winner category. Brilliant. Articulate. A visionary. A natural leader. Knew the Bible cold. However, somewhere along lifes race, he stumbled, fell and never got up again. Today he lives alone. Isolated. His wife and children are wounded and shattered. In my 20s Wally was my first choice to win the gold.
"Do not consider his appearanceThe Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (1 Sam. 16:7a,c)
2. Those who run to place. A larger group (but still small in percentage, probably about 5%) almost certainly will win a divisional prize, improve their time and train for the next big raceI am not in this group either. In the world of business and the professions, some of my contemporaries are high visibility performers. On the cutting edge. Some are in demand on the speaking circuit. Others are published. Most are high capacity, multi-taskers, seeming to juggle several balls in the air at onceand with relative ease! I can only look on with wonder and sigh. Few high achievers do not struggle with the issue of pride, which ultimately will derail them spiritually if left unattended.
For I envied the arrogantThey have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to manPride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." (Psa. 73:3a,4,5; Prov. 16:18)
3. Those who run to finish. This is the vast majority. I am in this group. Ah, group three. We are the ones who struggle to make it to the next water stop. Our biggest struggle is that we will get sick and throw up right in front of a Channel 13 news camera. We are the ones who know we should have trained more than we did, and swear we will next year…but probably won’t. When asked, "What was your time?" we answer simply "I finished."
In the Christian race, we are all in category three. We are slow, fast, fit, fat, and everything in-between. Some of us stand out for our speed, and we amaze the crowds with our skills, while others run despite greater challenges, and barely drag across the finish line, passing out on the ground as we finally complete the course. But in this one race, fast or slow, we all can win the same prize. These are the people with whom I most identify.
David Emery runs an auto repair shop. On Sunday he teaches a 5th grade boys Sunday school class. A bit halting in his speech and manner, David makes up for it with his magnetic warmth. He and his family live from one paycheck to the next, and drive older cars. Eating at Dennys is a good night out on the town. David just hangs in there year after year, loving God and serving his family and church. But never is he in the forefront. No, David goes unheralded, unnoticed, and unapplauded. But category three David, most certainly will finish the race.
Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. (I Cor. 1:26, 27)
For many marathon runners, the thing that gets them through the last mile is something very simple: the sight of the finish line. By keeping their eyes focused on that banner, they can make it to the end.
Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be dismayed. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will triumph…I press on toward the goal to win the prize (Isa. 50:7 NLT; Phil. 3:14a)
+ Adapted from Christian Love Notes