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Running to Win

by Paddy McCoy

It was the 1992 summer Olympics, and Derek Redmond wanted to take home the gold. He was, after all, the favorite in the 400-meter race. Derek had competed in the Olympics before, but he had never won gold. On the world stage, Derek had won many medals and set many records (

Coming into the 1992 Olympics Derek felt that this was his year. He had trained harder than ever before, and when he wasn’t training, he was thinking about training. His coach was relentless, pushing him to do his absolute best. Both Derek and his coach knew that this would probably be his last Olympic opportunity and therefore his last chance at gold.

On the day of the race Derek focused on the finish line and winning the prize he had worked so hard to achieve. He got down in the ready position with runners to his right and his left. Then suddenly, bang! The gun went off, and so did all the runners.

Derek started off strong. His prize was just moments away. But after rounding a corner, Derek heard a loud pop! and with his next step he collapsed in pain. He would later learn that the pop was his hamstring. As Derek grabbed his leg in pain on this international stage with a stadium full of spectators watching, the other racers crossed the finish line. Those who knew Derek’s story gasped in horror as his dreams were dashed.

But then something amazing happened. Derek stood up and started hobbling in the direction of the finish line. The crowd was silent in disbelief for a moment. How could this man, in such pain, keep going? Why would he try to finish a race that most would say he had already lost? Well, in Derek’s mind the race wasn’t over until he crossed that line. His prize wouldn’t be a gold medal, but it would be the satisfaction of completing the race.

It didn’t take too many steps, however, for the audience to realize that for Derek to finish the race it would take a miracle. That was when the miracle came down from the grandstands.

The footage of that day shows an older man, Derek’s coach, running onto the track, waving off security guards on his way to Derek. When he reached Derek, he took Derek’s arm and wrapped it around his own shoulders to support Derek’s weight. With his help, Derek crossed the finish line.

The Christian life is all about following Jesus, but following someone you can’t see or hear in the traditional way can be a challenge. Even Jesus knew it would be tough for those of us who would come to believe in Him though we had never seen Him the way His disciples had. At one point, before the crucifixion, Jesus even prayed for us. “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message” (John 17:20).*

Then, after His resurrection, when Thomas came to believe that Jesus had risen again because he was able to see, hear, and touch Him, Jesus said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

Jesus knew it would be tough, kind of like training for a race at the Olympics. The apostle Paul even referred to a life of knowing Jesus as a race, a race where our prize is eternity with Christ Jesus.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 9:24, 25, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”

And in Philippians 3:12-14 he says, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Then, near the end of his life, Paul wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

In this first of three articles on how to know Jesus, love Jesus, and live Jesus, I want to make sure you know that in the journey through life, holding on to a relationship with Jesus isn’t always easy. It’s a lot like training for, running in, and finishing a race. However, the good news is that during the times you feel as though you can’t run anymore you will realize you are not alone. Jesus Himself is holding you up, supporting your weight, and helping you every step of the way.

After Derek and his coach crossed the finish line, news reporters shoved microphones in their faces and asked the two what they were thinking. Derek’s coach said, “Whatever happened, Derek had to cross the finish line, and since we started his career together, I thought we should finish it together.”

God, your heavenly Father, has promised to be with you always, to the very end of the age (see Matthew 28:20). It is my prayer that you will run the race that you’ve been called to run, the race of learning what it means to know and love and live Jesus. I also pray that you will never give up on that race, that when life gets hard you’ll actually feel His strong arms, the same ones that created the heavens and the earth (see John 1:1-3), holding you up.

For I am “confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

* Texts in this article are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Padraic “Paddy” McCoy write from College Place, Washington.

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