Life is a race and we are all competing in it. We compete in this race of life at different levels and to different degrees. We can either compete poorly or well or in between; either way we are all participants in a compulsory race. The apostle Paul in his second epistle (letter) to the Corinthians pens down these words: “As for me, I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (Revised Standard Version of the Bible). Or, “As for me, the hour has come for me to be sacrificed; the time is here for me to leave this life. I have done my best in the race, I have run the full distance, and I kept the faith. And now there is waiting for me the victory prize of being put right with God, which the Lord, the righteous Judge will give me on the Day—and not only to me but to all who wait with love for him to appear” (Good News version of the Bible).
The Apostle Paul uses a few imageries or pictures to explain what the Christian life entails. For example the hard working farmer who must exercise patience in planting, watering, weeding and pruning in order to have a bumper harvest; a soldier who must keep to his military discipline and not get involved in care-free civilian life in order to please his master (2 Timothy 2:6-7). In this passage Paul takes us to the world of sports, the Olympics, specially the Marathon race in ancient Greece. The Olympics in Paul’s time were the greatest games that any athletes would aspire to participate in. According to William Barclay there were two key requirements: (1) one had to train for ten unbroken years and (2) one had to go before the gods and take an oath that one would not resort to any form of cheating or trickery as means of winning. One had to compete according to the rules of engagement.
In a serious sense all of life is a race and the Christian life or calling is a particular kind of race. In the race of life we are all athletes or players and what we become ultimately depends in large part on how we compete in the race of life. This then means we need to learn to develop and maintain a healthy competitive spirit. In almost every sphere and endeavor of life there is that element (sometime hidden and sometime obvious) of competition. A competition can take the form of a desire to do well, to do better than others, to finish whatever given task on time, and to be the first to reach the finishing line. A competition of any kind can either be selfish, disregarding others or even deliberately undermining their efforts, and in the end destructive. Or it can be healthy and be a means of bringing out the best in self and in others, and thus a means of enhancing performance, productivity and the achievement of individual and collective goals.
This introductory article proposes to treat a series that is intended to help us realize the race we are all in and how to compete in it fairly, vigorously, and rigorously for the benefit of all. This first article provides a background and context of the series, and definitions of key terms.
The second article will focus on the major requirements for every race, the third on how to persevere in the race, the fourth on abiding by the rules of engagement, the fifth on the particular Christian element to taking part in the race of life, and the final article (6th) will delve into the reward for taking part and competing fairly and well.
According to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary a race is a competition between people, animals, vehicles etc. to see which one is the faster or the fastest. It is also a situation in which individuals, groups, organizations and so forth vie for political power or to achieve something first. I would like to extend the meaning of race to any activity or task carried out with the view of achieving the intended goals against odds. To compete is to take part, participate in something, in the context of sports, to qualify as an athlete to take part in any games. Many of our endeavors in life can be likened to a race in which we must do our best to achieve. The Christian way of life is a form of race and any attempts to succeed in life become a form of race to win. The subsequent articles will explore these concepts a bit more.