John Beck, a football star for the University of Kentucky, was later named as chaplain of the U.S. Olympic Teams. For a number of years he traveled with the Olympic Teams all over the world, leading in their devotions, counseling and praying with many of the athletes. As he watched these young men and women train for the events in which they competed, he decided that this was a picture of what life really ought to be. Here were people who were sincere, fervent, and dedicated to the task before them. They were willing to pay any price, regardless of how much suffering or pain they had to endure, to win and be #1.
Then one day he was invited to visit the Special Olympics, a version of the Olympic games featuring athletes with various mental or physical impairments.
He watched as eight runners lined up for the 100-yard dash. They all took off when the starting gun fired, and he was amazed at how good they actually were. But as they reached halfway in the race, one of the runners fell down, skinned his knee on the track, and started to cry. What happened next was both beautiful and amazing. All seven of the other runners stopped, and all seven of them turned around and went to the fallen runner. Together they helped him to his feet, and the they walked to the finish line together. Beck said that he then realized that he had seen the true meaning of life—not in the Olympics, but in the Special Olympics.
Paul compares the Christian life to running a race: “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2; cf. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
In order to “win,” we must be “in the race.” Jesus, “the author and finisher of our faith,” has paved the way to victory. To share in His victory, we must submit our lives in obedience to Him through faith (Acts 16:30-31), repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confession (Romans 10:9-10), baptism (immersion) for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38), and faithful obedience to the end (1 John 1:7).
But Christ also calls us to be concerned about others who may not have yet joined in the race or who are struggling along the way. As Paul stated, we must “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2). In the Christian race, it’s not about being #1, it’s about finishing the race faithfully. Of course, we should always try to do our best, but we want to help others do the same.