Our Stories

< return

The Race of a Lifetime

Posted: November 13, 2017

Arlen Wilson.jpg

I have often thought that my pastor selected my confirmation verse because it referred to running a race. I was a skinny 15-year-old kid on crutches, with paralysis caused by polio. Running a physical race had become an impossible challenge for the rest of my years. But this verse presented a race of much greater importance.   

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.”

At eighty plus years, my down the road perspective keeps adding meaning to the challenge presented by this verse. Since I have not driven in several years, the GPS used by drivers is of no use to me. However, there is another “GPS” that has become a guidance service for my spiritual life. “God’s Pathway Service” keeps me running the race marked for me. When I look back at critical decisions made at forks in the road, I can see how God has shown the way. I am amazed at some of the fortuitous choices that I now know were determined by the running track marked out for me by God.

But, what is this “great cloud of witnesses” that my confirmation verse says is surrounding me? The eleventh chapter of Hebrews suggests the names of some people in that cloud. It lists some Old Testament greats who pleased God, such as Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses. Theologians include a limitless list of God’s people who witnessed to runners throughout the history of the world, including those in our current day-to-day existence.

This understanding now bears directly on how God’s people run the race. With faces lifted to receive the light of the love of God, we trust that light will reflect on the faces of the witnesses lining our pathway. We know that we have the opportunity to share the love of the Savior with the great cloud of witnesses.

Now, I know I want my response to be more than just smiling at those lining the path I travel in my power wheelchair. There are other ways of interacting with the Great Cloud. I have accepted the ministry suggested by many pastors in their spiritual counsel to elderly persons. I am committed to pray for others. My prayer list continues to grow in length, and now every night my sleep is prefaced by my talk with Jesus, including the naming of over four hundred people that I know and love. The list includes those connected to me by family, church, and the many shared and intersecting pathways of life. My prayerful request is for each to experience the blessings of hope, strength, courage, assurance, and peace. They are truly a significant part of this billowing cloud of witnesses that surrounds me.

Now it may be asked, “How does one maintain the focus, the drive, and the trust that is required to persevere in this lifelong race?” The answer is in the words that follow my confirmation verse.

Hebrews 12:2 “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

This lifelong race has been, and continues to be, fraught with discouragements. But the challenges are overcome by fixing our eyes on Jesus. He runs with us, saving us from weariness and stumbles. His pathway service prevents loss of direction. Jesus’s victory over death and His Oneness with the Father will enable us to ultimately break into a final sprint, chesting the tape at the end of our Race of a Lifetime.

By Arlen Wilson