Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Race is not to the Swift

Yesterday I watched a track meet at BYU with my dad and my sister Abigail. Incredible athletes pole vaulted, high jumped, long jumped, triple jumped, hurdled, threw discus and javelin, and raced. A specialist in the mile race attempted to break the four minute mile record, something that has only been accomplished once before in Utah. Although he came in four seconds after four minutes, he made a valiant effort. I enjoyed all the events, but I particularly enjoyed the 100 meter dash. The sheer power and acceleration of the athletes was inspiring.

Later in the evening, I met a young man named Akwasi Frimpong, who is also track star. Born in Ghana and raised in the Netherlands, Akwasi is an Olympic hopeful who now runs for the UVU track team. He is also the subject of a film about his quest to represent the Netherlands in the 2012 Olympic games. More impressive than his recognizable muscular build was his positive attitude and magnetic personality.

The thoughts racing through my mind this morning were also about racing:

"I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the aswift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all." (Ecclesiastes 9:11)

The preceding two verses are perhaps more encouraging, but the truth of this verse has recently been emphasized by President Thomas S. Monson in his talk entitled The Race of Life. In his talk, President Monson cites the apostle Paul, who compared life to a race against sin:

"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the asin which doth so easily bbeset us, and let us run with cpatience the race that is set before us,
Looking unto Jesus the aauthor and bfinisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him cendured the cross, despising the dshame, and is set down at the right hand of the ethrone of God." (Hebrews 12:1-2)

One last runner who also understood the "joy that was set before" was Eric Liddell, the Scottish Olympic athlete and missionary who is the hero of the film Chariots of Fire. He was known as the "flying Scotsman" and was purportedly complimented by his headmaster at Eltham school as "entirely without vanity."

As the story goes, Liddell, a committed and devout Christian, refused to run in a race held on the Sabbath, a race that was his best event and that he could have won. Later, Liddell ran in the 400 meter race and gained a spectacular victory, for which victory he characteristically gave the glory to God. In the film, Liddell told his sister Jennie: "I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure."

I too believe that God made me, and all of us, for a purpose. God created us each with unique talents, characteristics and attributes. For Eric Liddell, he knew that God had also made him fast, and that by doing his best in running, he could feel God's pleasure.

What are some of the things that you do that allow you to feel God's pleasure? If you could repeat the phrase, but for yourself, "I believe that God made me for a purpose, but he also made me ____, and when I _____ I feel His pleasure", how would you fill in the blanks?