Many of you have congratulated me on finishing the American Discovery Trail Marathon earlier this month. I really do appreciate the care and concern that many have expressed for me. This being only my second marathon, the fact that I did this one 36 years after the first and improved my time is quite gratifying!
My affinity for track competitions was initiated when I was young and fit. I ran in college but then lost the desire to even exercise for several decades. In my forties, I directed a Christian camp; and with all-you-can-eat meals, I quickly became a picture of ill-health. In my fifties, I returned to running competitions in an attempt to regain my ideal body weight, normal cholesterol levels, and stave off signs of a pre-diabetic diagnosis. Slowly, methodically, I have spent the last 11-plus years chasing better health through exercise. I am happy to report that things are working out well for me in this regard!
Earlier this summer I had an opportunity to do something very special. A personal friend of mine of about 40 years, unbeknown to me, registered for an 8K road race in Alamosa for which I had registered. We were surrounded there by “track royalty.” You see, it was a reunion of the first American Olympic marathon qualification race held just prior to the Olympics in Mexico City. High altitude would be a factor at the Olympics, so the trials were held at altitude, too. In this reunion race, about a third of the original participants were in attendance, including gold-medalists such as Billy Mills and Frank Shorter. We ran the race together, along with my friend’s 19-year-old son, actually well behind his son. It was such a fun and memorable time! We were both glad we did it.
It just so happens that my friend has been a missionary and was about to graduate with his Master of Divinity degree from seminary just a few weeks ago. I had the honor to speak at his graduation by giving him a “charge.” Having such a connection to running, I elected to encourage him to preach the gospel of Christ wherever the Lord might lead him. But, if I could tie running into the message, I wanted to do that, too.
This is where the message for him also becomes a message for all of us!
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize?
Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises
self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an
imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way,
as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after
I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. I Corinthians 9:24-27
As pastors, we take joy in the opportunities to “speak forth the mystery of Christ.” In this passage, we take joy in pointing out that the awards attained in this earthly life are really nothing. However, if we realize that Christ has presented us with “an imperishable wreath,” we can be assured that it is He who will present us to the Father as qualified before Him!
I pray that each student at ECA will come recognize just how much Christ has done for us to present us as spotless before our heavenly Father! Our labor on behalf of the gospel will always be worth it – yet the victory is always His!