Many unusual and remarkable races take place on our planet. Some are individual; others require team effort. Some span entire continents; others cross forests, glaciers, or oceans. Some are on foot; others are on wheels, on animals, inside machines. Some use primarily muscles; others use mainly brains and savvy. Some take minutes; others take hours, days, months, or even years. Almost all have in common that they are in some way grueling and exhausting, and require dogged determination. Many also include the risk of serious injury or even death--and on and on.
But there is one race that dwarfs them all; so much so, that it really does not deserve to be placed alongside them for comparison...
Think about a race, a kind of relay race, that spans at least 6,000 years! What man or organization could keep the records? Who could possibly monitor and supervise it? By all human standards, a race that went beyond the death of all its directors and participants would not even make sense.
But this race is a real, literal race. It has an Organizer, start and finish points, registered participants, a specific timespan, and final rewards.
However, it does have some rather odd characteristics. For one thing, back when the race started, there were no human beings watching it. The first runners, after participating, then became the first spectators; well, sort of. To this very day, as each one finishes his or her leg, they are promoted into the heavens, from where they watch the rest of the event.
Each runner is unique, in almost every way, and so are their races. Some run for a long time, others hardly even seem to get warmed up. There are men and women and children from nearly every language, country, century, and social category. Each receives a brand new stage, customized for them, specifically prepared for their time and place.
This massive event has been going on since the Garden of Eden and a selective list of some of its important runners is found in Hebrews 11. The brief summary of each of their performances provides much food for thought.
For example, take the first on the list, Abel. I am always tempted to feel sorry for him. He had so little opportunity to run, being cruelly and abruptly bumped off the course before he could accomplish much at all. I've sometimes wondered if he could be nursing a tiny grudge because of his bad luck.
But that way of thinking is totally off track.
Why? Because the Master of the race is Jesus, the Eternal One. He's the One who gave the initial pistol shot and who is calmly waiting at the finish line to announce the end of the contest.
He will individually and perfectly reward every faithful runner.
But is there any possibility that He might forget someone like Adam and Eve's unfortunate boy?
Not a chance.
A few thousand years into the race He personally jumped in to run alongside some of His created ones. While running, He specifically honored His martyr Abel, and then had Matthew record His words, so that there would be no doubt that Abel was still on His mind! But just in case there still remained a few skeptics out there, He placed him on the first pedestal of faith in that famous eleventh chapter.
The Race Master's records are perfect.
Now . . . I am in this race too.
And so are you, if you have believed in Christ. Moreover, it is a privilege beyond words to enter it and we only get one opportunity to run.
My only goal should be to be faithful and run well. The length of my race depends entirely on the Lord and is ultimately of no real importance.
Dear Father, many have run before me, but those in this list are carefully chosen for me to study and learn from. Please don't let me ignore or neglect such an opportunity. Amen.