August 6, 2012
Ellen MacArthur's journey began and ended on the south coast of England. Persisting through 65 mph winds, intimidating storms, burns, bruises, depression, and a near miss with a whale, MacArthur was hoping to set the record for the fastest, nonstop, solo circumnavigation of the globe. Ellen slept an average of 30 minutes at a time and four hours in any day. Twice she had to climb the 98-foot mast to repair mainsail damage. She consistently battled fatigue and mental exhaustion, oscillating between emotional extremes throughout the 27,000-mile voyage. But 71 days, 14 hours, and 18 minutes later, she was holding the prize, having set a new world record.
The apostle Paul often used the imagery of the race to describe the attempt to live out the call of Christ. On the days I want to give in and trade in the laws of God for the rules of the games the world plays, it is helpful to keep my eyes on the race Paul describes. "Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training." 1 Cor. 9:25a
Yet it was not the certainty of the race or the intensity of training that Paul stirs his readers to think about in the midst of hardship; rather, it was the goal itself. The word Paul used for "race" depicts the racecourses found in many Greek cities. The runner who outperformed the rest and reached the goal first received the only prize, since prizes for second and third did not exist. "Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it." 1 Cor. 9:23
We strain to follow Christ, training to become more like him, pressing onward through pain and struggle where He requires us to change. We strain for the goal set before us. Take away the record, wrote Ellen MacArthur in a dairy while yet at sea, "and it simply becomes a voyage around the world." Likewise, Christ stands calling us onward toward lives abundantly lived and the enduring prize of eternal life. Though we grow weary, if Christ himself is our end, we do not run aimlessly.
Let us race as runners who know not only the prize, but also know that we are equipped to obtain it. For it is Christ who goes with us that we might be able to say with Paul, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."
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