For the King

12 04 2015

It’s getting nice out and with that my mind turns to the finer things in life, like triathlons!  Since I quit smoking 11 yRock _nears ago I’ve enjoyed these contests, not so much competing against others as much as myself; I just love to push it harder than I thought imaginable. This season because of nagging injuries that don’t seem to want to go away I’ll have to be content on watching my sons compete. They’re both great athletes, but there’s something about my long haired, long legged Jeremy David, he may not look typical for these races but he possesses something that gives him an edge, a willingness to push past the pain threshold to give his best performance. And as I was thinking about that, the memory of another competitor came to mind from years back that inspired me, as I hope his story will you.

1968, undoubtedly one of the most prolific years of that decade. The Viet Nam was in full swing, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King had both been assassinated, riots had erupted in major cities across the U.S., Russia, better knows as the USSR back then had invaded Czechoslovakia and the summer Olympics were getting under way in Mexico City. Even this most special event was not without chaos as just weeks before the event the Mexican military opened fire on protesting college students in the country killing nearly 300.

When the Olympics finally began, they were a welcome 16-day distraction from all the world’s problems with many new names and faces grabbing the spotlight on the world stage for all to admire. This was especially the case for the American team who would lead all countries that year in medal count. We came to know names like Bob Beamon for his world record long jump and Dick Fosbury for winning the high jump with his unique approach which would go on to carry his name–the Fosbury Flop. Perhaps the most famous and most controversial moment at the games is when Tommie Smith and John Carlos while standing on the victory platform after winning medals in the 200 meter races, raised clenched fists in a black power salute during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner. Yes, many new celebrities were emerging during this world wide sporting event, but the one who grabbed my attention, my hero of the games is someone history doesn’t mention and only a few sport buffs and experts still remember.

I had been watching the running of the marathon on TV, one of my favorite events. I’ve always been impressed at the stamina these athletics must posses as they compete in the most enduring race of them all. These athletes must aggressively run 26 miles while fighting off the pain and fatigue that comes from such a grueling contest. At the end of the race when the runners enter the arena for the last leg of the competition, screaming and adoring fans wave flags as their country’s representative crosses the finish line. After quite a number of contestants had finished the race, the network carrying the coverage cut away to another event and I turned the TV off and left for several hours.

When I returned, I switched the set back on to see what was now taking place. I can’t tell you what event was being aired at that moment; only that a commentator was talking when he was interrupted and told they were going to switch back to the arena for a very dramatic occurrence being played out. There a young man was coming down the street toward the arena with bruises and cuts on his arms, legs and face. He had come to Mexico City as a competitor from a small African nation that was ruled as a monarchy. A new commentator began telling this young man’s story, how he was the only one to make the trip from his country, marching in the opening day ceremonies alone, but nonetheless a proud figure of a man carrying his country’s flag. Early in the competition of the marathon race, this valiant and proud athlete had taken a severe fall on the hot asphalt that baked under the Mexican sun. This left deep gashes in several places over his body, he picked himself up and he continued on only to have this occurrence happen again where he fell even harder. Many runners that day did not finish the race due to exhaustion and the grueling heat of a Mexican sun; still this gallant warrior continued on.

Now, here he was close to the end of his challenge, battered and scared from his unfortunate conflict, the only runner left from a race that had ended hours before. Yet he pushed on sometimes walking and sometimes gently running until he finally entered the arena. Other competitions were going on and had to be cleared out of the way. At first there was a notable silence from the crowd, not understanding exactly what was happening—until they saw this man, my hero enter to make his final lap. Covered with blood and dirt on his uniform, he began a steady trot and at the first applause was quiet and cordial. But as the crowd saw the determination of this fighter to finish the race, the accolades increased to a fever pitch with many rising to their feet to cheer him on. As the roar increased, so did his pace finding somewhere deep inside him a final reservoir of energy allowing him to break into a long strong stride in the final 100 yards. As he crossed, a quickly thrown together finish line, the whole arena exploded louder and stronger than what was given the gold medalist! This was no ovation for a last place finisher; this was for someone who refused to give up the race.

I Corinthians 9:24-26 (The Message Bible): “You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally. I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got.”

This “Traveler of the Rock Road” had come to Mexico City in hopes of winning the prize. When the gold medal was obviously forever out of reach, this did not deter him from the main reason why he had come in the first place; to finish the race for his king. Each of us runs a race in life every day. The determining factor on how you compete, train and accomplish the task before you is shaped by the goal you reach for. For the Christian, there is no guarantee that life will be painless with smooth roads in obtaining that goal. The strength in keeping your focus lies in understanding why you are in the race, and who you are running for. For that competitor, the reward awaits at the finish line where there will be rejoicing in hearing their King say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

May your goals be attainable, your training be diligent and your focus be on the eternal prize.

See ya next time!


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