As a young preacher I loved the writings of Guy King. He gave us a good illustration when he said that there’s a gold running cup on another man’s mantel that could have been — should have been — on his own. He was running toward the tape, coming in number one. Somebody was trailing on his right, and he shot a look to see where he was. It was a split-second distraction that his competitor needed, and he flashed by him and won. “Our sole safety [as Christians],” says Guy King, “is to be found in keeping our eyes averted . . . from others, and keeping them unswervingly ‘looking unto Jesus.‘”
The following illustration, from Our Daily Bread, emphasizes this basic principle of running the race with focus:
On May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister became the first man in history to run a mile in less than 4 minutes. Within 2 months, John Landy eclipsed the record by 1.4 seconds. On August 7, 1954, the two met together for a historic race. As they moved into the last lap, Landy held the lead. It looked as if he would win, but as he neared the finish he was haunted by the question, “Where is Bannister?” As he turned to look, Bannister took the lead. Landy later told a Time magazine reporter, “If I hadn’t looked back, I would have won!”
One of the most descriptive pictures of the Christian life in the Bible is of an athlete competing in a race. 1Corinthians 9:24-27 tells us that discipline is the key to winning. In Hebrews 12:1, 2, we are encouraged to lay aside anything that might hinder our spiritual advancement and to stay focused on Christ. And in Philippians 3:12, 13, the apostle Paul said, “I press on, . . . forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.”
Lord, give us endurance as we run this race of life. Help us not to wallow in past failures, but to be disciplined and to shun sinful ways. May we fix our eyes on the eternal goal set before us and keep looking unto Jesus.
Run the straight race through God’s good grace,
Lift up thine eyes and seek His face;
Life with its way before us lies,
Christ is the path and Christ the prize.
You can’t make spiritual progress
by looking back.