The Olympics are happening, so the inspirational sports stories are being told again. This story is about two runners competing in an international race – a Kenyan runner named Abel Mutai and a Spanish runner named Ivan Fernandez.
The Kenyan runner Abel was clearly going to win the race. However when he was only a few metres away from the finish line, he suddenly stopped running, as if he had crossed the finish line. Realising what was going on the Spanish runner Ivan shouted in Spanish for Abel to keep running. However Abel did not speak Spanish, nor could he read the signs around him that were written in Spanish.
Instead of shaking his head in disbelief and passing Abel to win, Ivan pushed Abel forward and helped him cross the finish line first. Abel ended up winning the race.
After the race, reporters asked Ivan why he helped Abel. Ivan replied, “My dream is that one day we can have some sort of community life where we push ourselves and also others to win.”
“But why did you let the Kenyan win?” the reporter asked.
Ivan replied, “I didn’t let him win, he was going to win. The race was his.”
The reported again insisted, “But you could have won!”
Ivan replied, “But what would be the merit of my victory? What would be the honour of this medal? What would my Mother think of it?”
In the book of Hebrews, we are reminded that we have a cloud of witnesses watching us run the race set before us as disciples of Jesus. We are reminded to keep our eyes on Jesus.
In Hebrews 12:1-3 ESV, we read:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
As a church fellowship, one of the reasons we are here is to help each other along on this race. We are not competing against each other. We are helping each other along to cross the finish line in our own time. When we see someone stumble, we don’t jeer or take advantage of their failure – we help them. Just as when you or I make a mistake or struggle, we hope someone will help us. We run this race knowing that our Father God is watching. Each of us runs whilst asking ourselves, “The way I am running this race – does it bring honour to God? What would Father God think of it?”
Let us pray.
Help us each to run the race set before us as followers of Jesus. Help us to keep our eyes on Him. Help us to encourage each other – to help each other along – so that we can all cross the finish line knowing that You are honoured and are pleased.