A Face-Plant Finish

Mike WardAs you know, the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio come to an official close this weekend. If you’ve been following the action recently, no doubt you’ve been exposed to some of the more memorable moments. One particular moment that caught my eye took place this past Monday, when a sprinter from the Bahamas, Shaunae Miller, literally dove head-long across the finish line to win the gold medal in the women’s 400m race; beating out American Allyson Felix by seven one-hundredths of a second!

Perhaps you witnessed that moment live, or saw the dozens of pictures that flooded the Internet the following day. Maybe you were one of those who angrily argued your position on racing rules and running etiquette via social media! Regardless of how you heard the story, or who the winner or losers were, I’m curious how many of you caught what I caught from that moment. In one online article Shaunae was quoted to say, “The only thing going through my mind was I have to get the gold medal.”*

Did you catch it? Shaunae was so determined to win the prize that it took her having to completely stretch out, give one final, all-or-nothing push, and endure the pain of a face-planting slide upon a rough track surface. Nothing, absolutely nothing, was going to get in the way of her finishing the race strong and winning the gold.

We can easily liken this to the Apostle Paul, who wrote to the church in Philippi, “…one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (3:13b-14, emphasis added). But have you ever considered that Jesus understood that intense drive to finish as well?

Jesus entered the human race for a very special and specific reason – to finish God’s plan to provide forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life for a fallen humanity. With one of his final breaths, he cried out, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). You see, the cross represents the final hours in a long race marked out for Jesus; and even though he knew exactly how the race would end – with excruciating pain and his sacrificial death – he still ran! Jesus ran, and more importantly, finished that race for us!

So now let me ask: Do you see your life as a race? Have you been running with perseverance? Or has your run become a crawl? How should Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross motivate you to run your race? More importantly, how should it motivate you to finish your race? 1 Corinthians 9:24b – “Run in such a way as to get the prize.”

*Myerberg, Paul. “Shaunae Miller’s unorthodox dive is an Olympic moment to remember.” USA Today, 16 Aug. 2016, www.usatoday.com.