Several years ago, when I was jogging along the Seawall in Galveston one morning, I noticed that someone had written the following message with chalk in large letters:
The Race Goes Not Always to The Swift. . .But to Those Who Keep On Running.
Encouragement! Someone put those words there to encourage people who were running the race. Don’t give up! Keep on keeping on! There is value in the running of the race. There is victory in completing it.
When Jesus sent the twelve apostles out on their mission, he let them know that not everyone would welcome them. “If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them” (Mark 6:11).
Encouragement! Jesus gave them those words to encourage them to continue in their mission even when they were not welcomed. A friend of mine once called this “the sacrament of failure.” Jesus gave his apostles permission to fail and an outward sign that would help them leave that failure behind and continue in their mission.
The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews also knew there is value in running the race to its completion. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Encouragement! Both Jesus and the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews intended their words to encourage Christ’s followers to keep on keeping on, because they knew there would be plenty of times when being Christian would be difficult.
Faith Derickson echoes these words from Hebrews:
Keep us faithful always to You
Whatever the path we trod
That we might run with patience, Lord,
The race that is set before us.
And through it all may we praise Your Name,
For it is only by Your power,
That we can run with patience, Lord,
The race that is set before us.
A missionary people need encouragement to persevere in the work of Christ. He’s in it with us. Every age and mission outpost has its challenges. If we will continue to faithfully put one foot in front of the other, Jesus will provide what is needed to endure and to transcend the challenges. When we fail trying, he will keep us from settling into that failure and help us move on toward completion.
As my wife, Gay, often reminds me, “Life is not about falling down. . .it’s about getting up and trying again.” Let us always encourage one another to continue in the life and work of Christ.
I’ll see you in Church!
The Very Reverend Ronald D. Pogue
St. Andrew’s Cathedral
P.S. I did a little online research and found the quote in a number of places with an anonymous attribution. However, I believe it may be a paraphrase of Ecclesiastes 9:11 “Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favour to the skilful; but time and chance happen to them all.”