“Winners” Without a Clue
David Hemery was a member of the 1968 British Olympic team that competed in the Games in Mexico City. He was scheduled to run the 400–meter hurdles race against a group of runners that included the world record holder. In fact, five of his competitors had clocked faster times than he did in the 400–meter hurdles. And trying to breathe easily at an altitude of more than 7,000 feet above sea level in Mexico City was proving to be a challenge for a sea–level Brit.
His goal was to run the race at about 90 percent exertion, saving the last 10 percent of his strength for a burst of speed near the end. Halfway through the race, he was surprised to find himself passing some of the stronger runners. Eventually, he didn’t see anyone in his peripheral vision. In the last 100 meters, he was running oblivious to everything. He didn’t hear the crowd or the footsteps of the other runners. He was simply focused on not slowing down, not relaxing for even a second, regardless of what the outcome might be.
As he crossed the finish line, he didn’t know who had won the race. “Suddenly,” Hemery wrote, “I saw Peter Lorenzo, the BBC commentator, running towards me across the track. He shoved a microphone in my hand. My first comment was: ‘Did I win?’” Indeed he did, setting a new world record in the 400–meter hurdles.1
Granted, his race lasted a very short time—just over 48 seconds. To him, though, it probably seemed like a life–time. And all the time he was running, even when he crossed the finish line, he had no awareness of his victory. All he knew was that he was gasping for breath without a clue as to the outcome.
There’s a lesson for you and me in the experience of that British track star: We should not live our Christian life as if we are unaware of the victory that is ours!
Certainty of Victory
Life is full of examples of people who are “winners” without a clue. Sometimes people are living on top of natural resource reserves buried beneath their property. They are wealthy without knowing it. Or sometimes people buy raffle tickets to help a worthy cause, then lose the ticket because they never anticipate winning—and they win. In 2009, the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries reported that the total amount of unclaimed prizes in the United States was $496 million—just under half a billion dollars.2 That’s billion with a “b.”
But before we get too critical of folks who lose their winning sweepstakes tickets, let’s ask ourselves an even more important question: Are we claiming the victory that is ours in Jesus Christ? Do we ever wake up in the morning, in the midst of difficult circumstances, and ask ourselves, “Do I really win in the end? Am I running this race without knowing the outcome?”
We should not live our Christian life as if we are unaware of the victory that is ours!
What if the Olympian David Hemery had been shown a video of himself winning his race before he ever ran? What kind of difference would certain victory have made? Yes, he still would have had to practice hard and run hard, but the knowledge of ultimate victory would have given context to everything he did to secure the victory. The pain and difficulty of training, even the exertion of running the race, would have taken on new meaning. Certainty of victory makes all the difference in how we run the race.
As Christians, we have something no athlete has—a certain knowledge of how our race ends. We know that victory is ours. The apostle Paul said this: “Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air” (1 Corinthians 9:26). And here’s how Eugene Peterson translates Paul’s words in The Message: “I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me!”
Given what we know about our victory, why would we ever give in to the temptation of “sloppy living”?
Victory Is Ours
The New Testament’s most powerful words about our victory over eternal death are tied to Christ’s victory over death through the Resurrection. Paul’s great chapter on the Resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15, ties our victory to Christ’s victory. If Christ wasn’t victorious over death, neither will we be. But since Christ was raised from the dead, so will all who belong to Him by faith (1 Corinthians 15:14–19).
And then Paul closes his chapter with these words describing who is not victorious and who is victorious:
So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?”
The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (verses 54–57).
Quoting the prophets, Paul asks Death and Hell, “Where is your victory?” They have been swallowed up in our “victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Dear friend, if you belong to Jesus Christ today, then victory is yours. This is your pre–race video, telling you ahead of time that you win. You win over the world, over sin, over death, and over the devil. As Dorothy Norwood sings in her great Gospel song,
Victory is mine, victory is mine,
Victory today is mine.
I told Satan to get thee behind,
Victory today is mine.
When I rose this morning,
I didn’t have no doubt,
I knew that the Lord would bring me out.
I fell on my knees,
Said, “Lord, help me please,”
Got up singing and shouting the victory.3
We know that victory is ours.
Victory by Faith
Satan wants nothing more than to convince us that we don’t have the victory, that the race is lost, that God has changed the plan. It’s when we believe those lies that we begin to let ourselves go and lapse into what The Message calls “sloppy living.”
Not only is the Bible clear that the victory is ours, but it is also clear about how we live the victory day by day: “And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4). That’s another way of saying what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:7: “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” Everything in the Christian life comes back to faith: “… the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
So—if we have victory in Christ to overcome the world, and faith is the means to that victory, we are faced with this question: How do we increase our faith? How do we keep “sloppy living” from eating away at the edges of what we hope for yet cannot see? But be careful: I’m not suggesting that you get more victory by having more faith. We have the victory because we have Christ—all of Christ! We are victorious by faith in Christ to begin with, and then we walk in that victory by faith for the rest of our life.
I hope you know me well enough to know there is not a silver bullet solution for increasing faith. We walk in victory by being faithful in the fundamentals of our faith: believing the promises of God (2 Peter 1:4), obeying the statutes of God (2 Corinthians 10:5), wearing the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10–18), and living to the glory of God in all things (1 Corinthians 10:31). Neither sin, the world, nor the devil will have any possibility of destroying the reality of victory in Christ if you walk by faith that way.
By the way—in the Gospel song, “Victory Is Mine,” it goes on to say, “Joy is mine” and “Happiness is mine.” That’s how you know you’re walking in the victory Christ has won for you—when joy and happiness in the Lord are yours. Christ has won the victory for you. Perhaps today is the day for you to claim the victory that is yours.
This article originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of Turning Points devotional magazine.
1“David Hemery: ‘I didn’t know I had won, let alone beaten the world record.’” The Independent, 7–17–2014. https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/olympics/david–hemery–i–didnt–know–i–had–won–et–alone–beaten–the–world–record–7836933.html (accessed July 17, 2014)
2Lyneka Little, “$16.5 Million Lottery Ticket Remains Unclaimed,” ABC News, September 21, 2011. http://abcnews.go.com/Business/millionaire–iowa–seeks–16–million–ottery–winner/story?id=14565431 (accessed July 17, 2014)
3“Victory Is Mine,” by Dorothy Norwood and Alvin Darling. © Dosciusko Music, Malaco Music Co., Peertunes Ltd., Peermusic III Ltd.
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