When Is a Race – Well – Not Really a Race?
Years ago, I knew a smart racing enthusiast who might have weighed in on this peculiar question, even though I see it as COVID-19 related. He wore a mask and gloves, but also colorful surgeons’ caps identifying him as a triathlete and lover of Nascar racing. Dr. Wood successfully operated on me for breast cancer in 2008 and 2013, and confessed during subsequent fun talks that his wife was the better Iron Man.
My affable doctor’s sporting events all involved measured distances between a start and finish line. This also makes sense in view of 1 Corinthians 9:24, where the Apostle Paul comments, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one wins the prize? So, run that you may obtain it.” His word for race has its roots in stadium and the foot races held there in ancient Greece.
The anonymous author of Hebrews stops us cold in our tracks when he writes in chapter 12:1-2, “…let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the Pioneer and Perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross…” This writer’s word for race here is the Greek equivalent of agony, implying ongoing trials that cause anguish, struggle, conflict, and adversity.
Meanwhile, Nascar racing has resumed and the presidential race is kicking into high gear, but the race for a vaccine to stop the pandemic is surely the most keenly sought after. There should be some excitement in the air, but I find that a strange weariness has begun to set in. The “agony” of recent months is nudging me toward apathy rather than active caring. I’m tired of watching depressing news that numb more than inform. “Death in Paradise” and “Colombo” provide the distractions I crave. My dialog with the Lord lacks fervor. Prayer time resembles a mechanical monolog. Its saving grace are the memorized Scriptures that come to mind and cause me to whisper a thankful Amen.
It behooves the Holy Spirit to humorously draw me out of my funk by suddenly making me sing “Oh, Danny boy.” Not at all a nod to Irish ballades, it is rather a nudge toward a fresh look at Daniel 7:25. In there – boy, oh boy! – Satan is fully unmasked, even as he takes the gloves off toward the saints. He brazenly intends to do them in for good by wearing down and wearing out the lot, adding “alterations in times, and in law” to the mix of agonies. Daniel confidently concludes that we will out-persevere God’s doomed arch foe! So, the pace of our race is not tied to the progression of the pandemic, but is rooted in the Person of Jesus Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith. His journey of ultimate obedience and victory culminated with the crown of thorns pressed on Him at Calvary. The deadly corona virus pressing on humanity in our day, bears a series of crown-like spikes on its surface. What if we allowed “Jimmy boy” to nudge us toward a most glorious conclusion? “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial, for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).