At a track meet in Eugene, Oregon, competing runners faced each other in the 3,000 meter Steeplechase.
One runner in particular, French-born Tanguy Pepiot of Oregon University, dominated the run and had a commanding lead into the last 100 meters. Then, about 50 meters from the finish line, the cocky Pepiot began lifting his right hand and looking to the crowds at his right and left, trying to evoke applause for a victory that was not yet his. He should have been gutting it out for the finish line like a desperate man. Instead, he sacrificed his speed to celebrate prematurely.
Unknown to Pepiot, Meron Simon of the University of Washington, was racing for the finish line with a religious fervor. In the last two meters he caught up with Pepiot – still celebrating – and passed him to win the race. It was a lesson that neither Pepiot, nor anyone else in competitive sports, will ever forget. While the race is on, it is time to run. The time for celebration and recognition is only after the race. So, stay focused on the finish line and do all in your power to get there first.
This has a powerful application to our faith journey. In our service to God we are often tempted by distractions. One of the greatest temptations is to look to our right or to our left for recognition and praise. If that praise doesn’t come we tend to get discouraged. But we also fail to realize that, even by looking for people’s applause, we are sacrificing performance and losing our focus. And if that recognition and praise is not forthcoming, our disappointment leads to discouragement and brings us to a standstill and forfeiture of the race.
Paul the apostle compared his service for God in this life to a race in which one competes arduously (Acts 20:24; 1 Corinthians 9:24; 2 Timothy 4:7). Now, in this life, is the time for running, not celebrating. So don’t seek or expect recognition and rewards in this life, otherwise you’ll lose sight of the finish line and sacrifice performance.
The time for celebration and recognition is only after the race.
And for believers, the finish line is our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Focus on pleasing Him. As the book of Hebrews tells us: “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,” (Hebrews 12:1-2a, NKJV).
Dear Father in heaven, remind me that I am in a race and must focus on the finish line in order to win. Help me to focus on eternity, where Christ and the joys of heaven await me. Amen.