Have you ever had one of those days?
- The University of Utah was hosting #4 Oregon in a huge game last November. The Utes had jumped out to a 7-0 lead when wide receiver Kaelin Clay caught a pass and raced for the end zone. It looked like a 79 yard TD and a fourteen point lead early in the game. Except for one thing … on his way to pay dirt, Clay started celebrating a little too early. He dropped the ball at the one yard line. The Utah fans erupted, thinking their team had just scored against the favored Ducks. Oregon’s Joe Walker had seen the play, picked up the ball, and took it 99 yards to score a tying touchdown for his team. Whoops!
- At the Pepsi Team Invitational earlier this month featuring runners from Oregon, Washington, and Kentucky, steeplechase runner Tanguy Pepiot had victory in sight. As he approached the finish line, he started waving to the crowd and slowed down. Charging behind him was Washington runner Meron Simon. From the video, Oregon’s Pepiot glances over as someone urges him to speed up. Too late. Simon passes him just before the line to win the race. Pepiot lost by 0.10 seconds. He collapsed on the track, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Whoops!
Finish. We’ve been told all our lives: it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. History is full of stories about people who begin well. We may start with great intentions, but the challenge is to keep the pace, finish the task. The apostle Paul wrote to a troubled church in Corinth who needed to be reminded to keep running the race: “Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
The writer of Hebrews encouraged readers to “run with endurance the race God has set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). Nobody can run your race for you. Every race has its challenges. You’re the only Christian at your office or on your team? Run your race. You’re fighting to maintain your sexual purity? Run your race. You’re trying to hold on to your ethics when others around you look for corners to cut? Run your race. You’re in a relationship that is rocky and difficult? Run your race. Where does it say that life is easy? Run your race.
Remember that we are not alone. In that passage in Hebrews, the writer pictured stands packed with those who are cheering us on (Hebrews 12:1). Jesus promised, “And remember this: I will be with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Paul wrote to the Philippians: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
Run your race!