Let’s Go Racing!
Yes, I’m a NASCAR fan and for that, I offer no apologies! To me, they are among the most patriotic of sports at the beginning of every contest. Though extremely competitive, there are but few of the contestants that purposely endanger others. As most sports should, teamwork is stressed more than the individuality of the contestants. Even those on the track who individually are racing for the prize are willing to help other drivers, even those of other teams, gain position and advance to the lead. They credit their sponsors instead of crediting themselves, and when involved in a wreck that takes them out of contention, while some blame others, most accept the blame and even apologize when involving others.
Sure, I enjoy the speed! But I also enjoy watching the strategies of not only the drivers but the pit crews and especially the crew chiefs who are responsible for every aspect of the race from car to driver and every drop of fuel between the start and finish. When one truly understands the intricacies of stock car racing, there is always excitement and expectation. It is far more than “go fast and turn left” as the non-understanding proclaims! (And don’t forget the road courses where turning left and right are included with “go fast.”)
Have I tried it? No, not in actuality, but “back in the day” the “red neck” in me ruined a few transmissions, popped a few tires, and rubbed a few “walls” with my driving. To me, there’s simply a fun sensation about NASCAR that is different from all other sports.
Not so strangely, I find racing to have several lessons for our spiritual life. First, look at Hebrews 12: 1- 2: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” While we generally think of this passage as a “foot race” (which is what Paul most likely had in mind), there is still the “running of the race” with NASCAR. Drivers and crews are compassed about with thousands of witnesses. They must set aside every weight and baggage that would slow them down. They must keep the goal in mind and learn from the examples of those who have run the race and won! Just so, NASCAR can teach us the value of 1 Corinthians 9:24: Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.” It must be run fairly, according to the rules, and only one winner to a race.
While I enjoy NASCAR, the fact of every Christian being in a spiritual “race” is of greater interest to me! Examine again Hebrews 12:1 – 2 and note the subject of this race is YOU (or me as I read it!) We are surrounded by spectators in this world; some who cheer us, and others who boo us for our efforts in pleasing God. We must surrender every item, both material and mental, that will weigh us down from successfully racing. Plus, whatever sin so easily captures our attention and takes our mind’s concentration from this race must be surrendered. Then and only then are we conditioned to race with patience: that “paced endurance” that keeps reaching forth to the goal set before us. We keep Jesus in our sight as the eternal goal, knowing His example of patient endurance (see 1 Peter 2:21 – 24) was victorious! But a vast difference exists between NASCAR and this spiritual race. That difference is EVERYONE can win the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus! (Philippians 3:12 – 16). The same prize of eternity with God that Paul mentions at 2 Timothy 4:8 can be ours if we successfully run this race as Jesus commands us.
I’m not trying to defend NASCAR, but rather trying to make a point for your consideration. In such sports as NASCAR or basketball, or any other sport, we’ll have our favorites. But with this “race to eternity with God,” our “favorite” must be God and His kingdom! (Matthew 6:33; Colossians 1:18; et al). We mentioned 1 Corinthians 9:24. Read the rest of that chapter and note Paul mentioned at least two “sports” – running and boxing. In verse 27, he sums up the matter with these words: “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” Did you see it? Self-control and subjection to Christ (the Master example, winner, “crew chief,” or other “Leader” monikers you wish for this illustration) is required of those racing! If not, every effort extended, and every “fan” who would otherwise cheer us onward sees us as a lost endeavor!
Just as sports “fans” follow their “leader” in sports, we Christians must follow Christ! Further, we must realize quite vividly that there are those following US, i.e., learning from OUR endeavors what they should or should not do to run their race for eternity! Let us set forth a RIGHTEOUS course for them, just as we have learned from those who taught us! Let’s go racing, but let’s keep HEAVEN as our goal!