This Thursday, June 5, 2014, one of the most significant athletic accomplishments of the 20th century will be celebrated in San Diego at Balboa Stadium: the 50th anniversary of Jim Ryun’s sub-4 minute. He was the first High School athlete to achieve that extraordinary feat.
While Ryun never won an Olympic gold metal–his best finish was silver in the 1968 Mexico games–he did hold world records in the half-mile, 1500m and mile. In the ensuing years Ryun served five terms as a Congressman from his home state of Kansas.
Prior to 2008 Olympics, Ryun wrote a column in the Christian Science Monitor entitled “What It Takes to Run for Olympic Gold.” In it he made the case that the 1500m is the premier track and field event. “A grueling test of grit and wit, it requires the speed of a sprinter and the endurance of a distance runner.”
The word the week is endurance.
Endurance is an essential ingredient to success an any endeavor. Business. Sports. Education. And most importantly living the Christian life.
Using the metaphor of running, the Hebrew writer urged, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb 12:1).
A runner must endure aches. Pains. Strains. A dedicated runner persists in hot weather. Cold weather. Rainy weather. When he feels good. Or bad. Or just blah! He runs! He runs with a goal in view. With purpose. Passion. And perseverance. Just ask Jim Ryun!
The Christian life is spiritual marathon. Not a sprint. It requires a life time of dedication. Devotion. And doggedness. It’s not always easy. Convenient. Or popular. But the true disciple of Jesus is not deterred. Dismayed. Or distracted. He’s keeps on keeping on!
The thread of spiritual endurance runs throughout the teaching of the Bible.
Jesus said, “The one who endures to the end shall be save” (Matt. 24:13).
Luke says The Jerusalem Christians, “continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine…” (Ax 2:42).
Peter teaches that as we mature in Christian graces we should add to our faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control and endurance. (2 Pet. 1:6-7) Endurance is necessary for spiritual growth and development.
Paul exhorted Timothy to persevere in preaching the gospel/ “But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Tim. 4:5)
Endurance is a must if we are to over come temptations and trials, The Bible says “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (Jas 1:3-5)
The Bible in various places calls for Christians to persevere in prayer. In brotherly love. In faith. In fellowship. In God’s grace.
The great cloud of witnesses in Hebrews shouts for us to keep on running the spiritual race. In spite of problems. Obstacles. Or weariness.
In the 1968 Mexico City Olympics John Stephen Akhwari represented Tanzanai in the marathon. Along the course Akhwari stumbled and fell, severely injuring his knee and ankle. But he kept on running.
Hours after an Ethiopian runner had won, Akhwari limped into the Olympic stadium. Only a few thousand spectators were left, but they began to cheer the courageous Tanzanian. Bloodied, bruised and bandaged he grimaced with every step he completed the final lap of the race.
Later, a reporter asked Akhwari, “Why did your continue the race after you were so badly injured?”
He replied, “My country did not send me 7,000 miles to begin a race; they sent me to finish the race.”
God is calling us to finish the Christian marathon. So, “let us run with endurance the race marked out for us.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman