‘My country did not send me 7000 miles away to start the race. They sent me 7000 miles to finish it’. John Akhawari, 1968 Olympics
What does it mean to finish the race? Is the Christian life a race worth finishing, or even starting in the first place?
Our guest is retiring Melbourne pastor Nick Hearnshaw who reflects on his love of running and what it means to finish the race.
We ask Nick Hearnshaw some Bigger Questions
This episode was recorded privately in Melbourne at St Luke's Anglican Church South Melbourne in May 2017.
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Bigger questions asked in the conversation
Nick’s passion for running
Nick you have a passion for running. What do you love about it?
How much running have you done?
How far do you like running?
Gabrielle Zevin once said, "There are many challenges to long distance running, but one of the greatest is the question of where to put one’s house keys." Where do you put your keys?
Philosophy of the race
What is it like when you finish the race?
What was your most satisfying race finish?
Are you ever tempted to give up? Why do you keep running?
Purpose to running
The classic British film Chariots of Fire told the story of Eric Liddell, the great Scottish runner. Liddell says in the film that “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast!” Do you resonate with Liddell’s comments?
Just as an aside, do you think Liddell was right to not run on a Sunday?
Liddell’s comments raise the idea of purpose, he believed God made him for a purpose - is there a greater purpose than running fast, or long or both?
One of the other stars of Chariots of Fire, the character of Harold Abrahams in the film said, "And now in one hour's time I will be out there again. I will raise my eyes and look down that corridor; 4 feet wide, with 10 lonely seconds to justify my whole existence." Can running fast justify a person’s existence?
Interestingly the Bible paints many parallels between a running race and the Christian life. But before we think about that, can you tell us about your Christian race. What convinced you to be a Christian believer?
The Bible’s reflection
In the New Testament book of Hebrews, the author draws a parallel with the Christian life and running. He says in Hebrews 12:1:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
Why do you think the author describes the Christian life as like a race?
In another part of the New Testament, in the book of 2 Timothy, the Apostle Paul who is at near the end of his life, writes to his younger prodigy Timothy. And he says,
For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:6-7
Here we see that Paul is about to die, he says, ‘the time for my departure is near’, he says he has ‘finished the race’, how do you think he’s feeling?
Do you think he would have been tempted to give up the race, to no longer keep the faith?
Paul then goes on to say,
Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:8
What is the reward for finishing the Christian race?
The story of Tanzanian athlete John Akhawari in the 1968 Olympic Games inspires many. He injured his knee when competing in the marathon and he entered the stadium more than an hour after the winner. Bloodied and bandaged, he struggled to the finish line. When asked why he had not given up despite the obvious pain he was feeling, Akhawari replied, "My country did not send me 7000 miles away to start the race. They sent me 7000 miles to finish it". It’s an inspiring story. How do you react to it?
The prize at the end, this crown of righteousness. Will it be worth the run?
The Big Question
So Nick, is the Christian race worth finishing?