Who Cut In On You?
On December 2, 2012, Spanish athlete Iván Fernández Anaya was competing in a cross-country race in Burlada, Navarre. He was running second, some distance behind race leader Abel Mutai of Kenya. As they entered the finishing straight, he saw the Kenyan runner - the certain winner of the race - mistakenly pull up about 10 meters before he ended the race, thinking he had already crossed the finish line. Anaya quickly caught up with him, but instead of exploiting Mutai's mistake by speeding past him to steal the victory, he stayed behind him. Using his hand on his back and gesturing to the finish line before them, he guided the Kenyan to victory.
Scripture uses 'running a race' terminology several times. "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." (1 Cor. 9:24). "You were running a good race. Who cut in on you?" (Gal. 5:7). "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." (2 Tim. 4:7). These three passages speak of 'running to win' the race in our life journey for Christ. In our culture, this greatly appeals to us. We all want to win. We all want to be the one lifted on the shoulders of others and hailed as victor.
But as Christians, finishing first is not the race we are called to run. We are called to honor Christ as we run the race. Paul said in Acts 20:24, "I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me-- the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace." As we live and proclaim the gospel of Christ, the race we are called to run is not for our personal gain, but that others may win – that they hear the good news of Christ’s victory and receive the free gift of salvation found only in Him. This is our race! "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Cor. 5:20-21).
Twice Jesus said this exact phrase, “whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matt. 10:39 & 16:25). As faithful messengers of His grace, the race we are called to run is that of sacrifice. Just as Fernández Anaya sacrificed his own victory by staying behind Abel Mutai, pointing and guiding him toward the finish line, we are called to offer our lives for the benefit of others.
Why? Because this is how Jesus lived and died ... for us ... for me. I am saved unto eternal life because my Savior died for my sin and guilt. He suffered eternal's torment in my place so that I may receive eternal joy in the presence of God. Jesus 'came in second' so that I may be ... first!
Just hear the words of Jesus' second prayer in the garden the night before He died on the cross, (and inserting my name), "Father, if it is not possible for [David's guilt] to be taken away unless I drink it, may Your will be done." (Matt. 26:42). Jesus ran His race unto death, so that I may win my race unto life. If Jesus ran the race of His life for us, should we not also run the race of our life for others? The writer of Hebrews offers this encouragement, "... let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author 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. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart" (Hebrews 12:1-3).
As we run this race in Christ’s Name and serve Him in our worship and work here at Riverside, may the grace we have received in Him spill out on all that we meet.