“And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith…” (Hebrews 12:2a)
It was 1967 and the Indianapolis 500 race was being played loudly on a radio in my 7th grade woodshop class. The teacher didn’t care if we listened as long as we continued to work on our projects. Back then, except for those who could watch the Indy 500 in a theatre on closed circuit TV, radio was how most of America experienced the drama of this king of all car races…And boy did the ’67 Indy 500 have drama!
From early in the race Parnelli Jones, the driver of a radically new, four-wheel drive Paxton Turbocar gas Turbine engine, jumped out into the lead. Jones dominated the race except for only a few laps. He looked unstoppable with his transformational new racing machine. With only 4 laps to go, Parnelli Jones seemingly had the race wrapped up holding a full 1 lap lead over A.J. Foyt and 2 lap lead over third place Al Unser. But shockingly, a tiny $6 transmission bearing failed, and Jones and his Turbine quietly coasted to a stop near the entrance to the pit lane. His team and the crowd were stunned, and the race was suddenly over for him just like that!
Foyt, after trailing almost the entire race, now had a chance to pull out a win. But he still faced an unexpected major hurdle. On the final lap, Foyt was driving through turn four when a four-car crash (of cars still in the race but laps behind) broke out in the north end of the main straightaway. Foyt, with the instinct of a veteran racer, sensed from his peripheral vision that the crowd was looking ahead of him and not at him, the new leader. He instinctively slowed down his car as he approached the smoke and wreckage ahead of him and began to carefully weave his way through this “moving minefield” of careening cars. The crowd collectively held their breath as he disappeared out of sight into the thick smoke. After what must have seemed like an eternity for hopeful fans, Foyt, suddenly popped out into the clear and cruised to the checkered flag. He had won a race that had seemed to be lost.
This is a metaphor for every one of us running our race for Christ. It is not about where we are at the beginning of the race. The Bible is full of the wreckage of those who started well but didn’t finish well. King Solomon and King Hezekiah come to mind. In the New Testament, we have Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples and a lesser-known man named Demas, one of the Apostle Paul’s co-workers as examples. In our own lives we can easily see those who started strong in their faith and either crashed into flames or who had to pull off the track because of something hidden but destructive in the “machinery” of their hearts.
A.J. Foyt teaches us about finishing strong. He persevered and gave it his best through ALL 200 laps. The racing skill and instincts he had learned in his career served him well when both the unexpected opportunity happened (first-place Jones suddenly dropping out of the race) and the unexpected tragedy occurred at the very end of his race (the four-car pileup). He kept his eyes on the goal and was not distracted whether he was behind or ahead, blessed by good fortune or dealing with adversity.
Each of us who love the Lord Jesus Christ have a race to WIN. There is infinitely more that is at stake than was for AJ Foyt on that day. In this race the ALL finishers who are still carefully trusting in Christ at the end WIN. Those who don’t back down to the pressure and lose their courage but just keep on doing the right thing WIN. Those who don’t stop hoping in God even when it appears all is hopeless WIN. Those who know when there are times to take the foot off the pedal and proceed forward with extreme caution WIN. This points us to Jesus is “the champion who perfects our faith” who has shown how us how to win when all seems lost.
Dear Lord Jesus, At the beginning of the new year let us win our race. You have unique race for each of us to run and win. Let us finish strong for Your glory and the benefit of others our lives touch. Thank You for finishing Your race strong for Your Father and all of us who have put our hope in You. In Your Victorious Name, Amen
Written by Jamie Bohnett. Contact the Author: firstname.lastname@example.org