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Monday, 15 August 2016

Run YOUR Race

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way as to take the prize. Everyone who competes in the games trains with strict discipline. They do it for a crown that is perishable, but we do it for a crown that is imperishable. Therefore I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight like I am beating the air. No, I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified."

I have been watching and following many of the amazing Olympic stories these last two weeks. Whether it was Michael Phelps winning his 23rd Olympic gold, Kyle Chalmers winning gold at 18 years of age, Mo Farah winning after falling down, Wayde Van Niekerk winning the 400 metres and breaking the world record, and of course Usain Bolt stamping his authority as the greatest sprinter of all with his third Olympic gold were among the incredible feats of athleticism the world has seen.

Of those feats, I have appreciated how many of those athletes have paid witness to the fact that their greatness does not necessarily even come from their own choice. For instance how Usain Bolt as a devout Catholic made the sign of the cross before and after his race, and how Wayde Van Niekerk thanked God with his record breaking run. Their actions - pointing to God first reveal the true gift of those athletes is their spirit and heart.

This morning, I saw an ungracious act when cyclist Mark Cavendish moved down on the inside lane and clipped another cyclist. He won silver and when interviewed about his actions reportedly was aggressive and dismissive about them - further the interviews he did upon winning silver suggested a whinging attitude, not one of grace. I could only compare his attitude to that of the much maligned Sun Yang (and indeed to our own Aussie athletes on the whole). After failing his pet swim in the 1500 metres the explanation was to complain about sickness. The Aussie athletes the whole time complained about issues that (in the overall scheme of life) were minor. The amount of gold medals each of these athletes won reflects that attitude of complaint.

Indeed in his article today in The Herald Sun, Richard Craddock notes that "Those who showed a bit of Brazilience and got on with the job are the one we are seeing on top on the podium and will return home richer for the experience of having visited this mysterious, dangerous, captivating corner of the world."

So what is it that separates the true winners from the second placings and those who failed when it really mattered? For one, their consistency. For another, their ability. For a third, their character. And for a fourth, keeping their eye on the goal.

There were two brilliant pictures from this games that touched my heart and showed me precisely why Bolt and Phelps are the greatest in their fields.



The first so incredibly encapsulates the idea of keeping your eyes fixed upon the prize. While Phelps' opposition can only watch as he is defeated in the race. The second however, highlights simply how aware Bolt is of his own ability - his own race - that he can look back and smile as he triumphs.

Each of these champions demonstrated an awareness and ability to run THEIR own race. They didn't try to race like their opponents, or like a legend from history. They raced to the utmost of their own ability, eyes fixed upon the goal of victory.

That is what struck me the most when I saw the 400 metre race. Wayne Van Niekerk had the 'bad luck' of ending up in Lane 8 - where no one had won before. He did not complain (and if he lost I doubt he would have blamed Lane 8 for the result, such seems to be his character) and raced his heart out to the end.  In the end he said, “I thought someone was going to catch me, because I felt very alone and I was like, ‘What’s going on? What’s going on? It gave me so much motivation to keep on pushing, keep on pushing, and as I got to the finish line I just dove for the finish line.” I believe that because Van Niekerk could not see any of his competitors in the lanes in front of him that it allowed him to truly focus on that finish line and his own race - that he could just freely run.

The Bible says in Hebrews 12:1-2, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off every encumbrance and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with endurance the race set out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

My challenge to take out of these Olympics is that to be truly a champion, you must be a champion in all ways and run your own race. If you are gifted in a particular area, you need to run your race in that area. I will be honest that there have been times in my life when I have wished I had a skill set in singing or a greater artistic skill (I can draw well enough but have never been particularly skilled in painting or in any outside the box methods) or was a true athlete. But my race lane is not marked out for me in those fields. I need to recognise my own race and run it with everything I am - running the race of a Godly teacher, writer, husband and friend. I need to get a little closer to that end goal every day - even if I do stumble, the important thing is to finish MY race.

What is your race? And are your running it to your own potential? Are you trying to run someone else's race? Or are you allowing things around you to distract you from your true potential?