In the award-winning film Chariots of Fire, one of the characters chronicled (alongside Scottish sprinter and missionary to China, Eric Liddell) is legendary British sprinter Harold Abrahams. Abrahams is obsessed with winning, but in a preliminary 100-meter dash leading up to the 1924 Olympics, he is soundly beaten by his rival, Liddell. His response is deep despair. When his girlfriend, Sybil, tries to encourage him, Harold angrily declares, “I run to win. If I can’t win, I won’t run!” Sybil responds wisely, “If you don’t run, you can’t win.”
Life is full of reversals and disappointments, and followers of Christ are not excluded from those downturns that can make us want to give up and quit. But in the race of life, Paul challenges us to keep running. He told the Corinthians: “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it” (1 Corinthians 9:24). We are to run faithfully, recognizing that we run to honor our King—in spite of the challenges and struggles we face.
Paul was right, we run to win. But if we fail to enter the race, we will always wonder about what could have been had we only run to the best of our ability “the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). After all, “If you don’t run, you can’t win.”
Bill Crowder, Sports Spectrum Chaplain