By Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman
You may have heard of Eric Liddell, whose story was portrayed in Chariots of Fire. But there was a second runner in the film, Harold Abrahams, who was no slouch athlete either. He broke a world record in the hundred-meter dash and won both gold and silver medals in the 1924 Olympics.
Early on, Abrahams learned an important lesson. While out front in a race, he had made the mistake of glancing back at the other runners, costing him precious tenths of a second. He vowed to never do it again. On the day of his gold medal run, he kept a short reminder in his pocket written by his coach. It read: “Only think of two things, the report of the pistol and the tape. When you hear the one, just run like hell until you break the other.”
There are plenty of things to look at when you are headed down the track. Abrahams looked back at the other runners. Other racers might focus on the track itself, noting its imperfections and possible difficulties. Still others might look back at the distance already covered. But to run most efficiently, a runner must focus on one thing: the finish line. A runner’s focus makes all the difference.
We, too, are in a race of sorts. As we run, we also benefit from where we train our gaze. My tendency is to look at my fellow runners. From the outside looking in, they always seem to have it together, at least more than I do. They are wiser and so much more spiritual than I can ever hope to be. They have such a large platform and have been published so many times. Comparing myself to them can be downright discouraging.
Sometimes I focus on the track. Where I am headed is uneven and contains hazards and pitfalls. I am fixating on the logistics of the race instead of the reason I am running.
Another misguided focal point is where we have already been. The runner who continually looks back on the distance he has covered is looking in the wrong direction. As he congratulates himself on his progress thus far, he loses sight of the remaining race yet to be run. It is a temptation for us to rest on past laurels rather than continuing to move forward.
Peter experienced the damage a lack of focus can have. When Jesus called him out of the safety of the boat to walk across the water to him, he quickly obeyed. Things went swimmingly well at first (forgive the pun) as Peter set out toward the Lord. However, when he began to be distracted by the howling wind and mounting waves, his steps began to falter. Peter began to sink, until the Lord reached out and saved him. Had Peter kept his focus on the One who had already calmed a storm, the One who created the water and waves to begin with, his trek would have ended much differently (Matthew 14:22-33).
Hebrews 12 urges us: “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith…” (NASB). Jesus stands at our finish line, having already run and completed the race before us. He alone provides perfect inspiration for the runner. He faced the same rough track with all its pitfalls and never lost sight of his end goal: the joy of crossing the finish line.
Keeping our focus where it belongs is a discipline to be learned and practiced. Harold Abrahams sliced off tenths of a second in mastering that skill, and it won him a gold medal. Our reward for doing the same is this: “Consider Him… so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim… 1 Corinthians 9:24-26 NASB
About the author: Julie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Her award-winning book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Women, was published in 2013 by Thomas Nelson. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.
Join the conversation: What most often discourages you as you “run”?