How many of you enjoy watching the Olympics – especially the summer Olympics? I certainly do. I consider it one of my top five favorite sporting events. I especially love to watch the swimming and track and field events. I guess being a cross country runner makes me appreciate the running events over anything. I enjoy the distance races, but the relays are also on the watch list.
I coached track and field for many years. I also participated in the sport growing up. The hardest thing to teach and work on as an athlete on a team was the sprint relay. Instead of coaching one individual, four unique and differently talented athletes comprise of one team. All four members of the team have to be spot on and nearly perfect to win the race. Any mistake could cost the team the win or even a place. It’s the exchange of the baton that must have perfect timing and accuracy.
In a 4 x 100 meter race there are three exchanges that need to be made in a 20 meter area called the exchange zone. If the exchange is not made in those 20 meters, the team is disqualified. I’ve seen many teams get disqualified because of that, even in the Olympics. I’ve also seen teams drop the baton during the exchange, too, causing the team to lose the race. A perfect exchange is made when both runners have reached their peak speed at the same time. In order for that to happen, the runner receiving the baton must start running before his teammate reaches him. The receiver is to look straight ahead, and at the same time reach behind himself, keeping his arm as still as possible in order to successfully receive the baton. It takes precision, accuracy, and teammates working together as one. It is not easy, even as professionals. Practicing this skill over and over again is a must in order for it to be successful. It can definitely make or break a race.
“Therefore since we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders, and the sin that so easily entangles. Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1
Our Christian life is just like a sprint relay race. Before any of us became a Christian, someone had to tell us about Jesus….whether it was a family member, friend, or even a Sunday School teacher. At that time we were surrounded by witnesses. Today I am that witness, surrounded by many unbelievers, to represent Jesus to them. As a kid, I received that baton from another teammate. In other words, another Christian told me about Jesus. The baton was exchanged perfectly. I accepted what I was told. Once I received that baton, it is my turn to pass it on. In order to receive the baton or hand off the baton, timing is everything. The receiver must not sway to the left or the right, but be able and willing to accept it as it comes. He must stay on that straight path, and throw off everything that entangles.
God says for us to run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Unfortunately, my race has taken me to prisons in Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Texas, and to county jails in Wisconsin. As a Christian, God wants us to be witnesses wherever we are, especially in prisons and jails where His Word is needed the most. The last six years I have tried my hardest at running the race and passing on the baton. Of course, it didn’t always go as planned. The baton was dropped time and time again or wasn’t passed in the exchange zone. Sometimes I didn’t do my part all that well in passing the baton and being the witness I needed to be. Often I missed out on opportunities that were in front of me. But at other times, the baton was passed like two Olympic runners – with such a fluent and smooth motion. It felt good and I knew God’s hand was in the race.
As a Christian our life is a constant race. God puts us in the races He needs us to run – whether it’s to the jungles in the Amazon or to a business office or a hospital or even to prison walls. He places us right where He knows we can persevere and be that witness, successfully exchanging that baton. Prison and jail is by far the hardest place I’ve ever had to run that race and try to pass that baton. But I’m not giving up and won’t. God is in control and I trust Him wholeheartedly. He has you right now in that race where He needs you. So go run that race, and be that Christian God wants you to be.