“I returned and saw under the sun that – The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong (Ecclesiastes 9:11a).”
Simen Hegstad Krueger of Norway had trained diligently with dreams of winning Olympic gold in South Korea. But on the day of the skiathlon, a 30-meter long-distance skiing event, something happened that he hadn’t trained for nor did he envision in his Olympic dreams. At the beginning of the epic race it seems that Krueger was tripped from behind and he broke his pole and went down hard. Not only were other competitors stampeding by two other racers fell on top of him. By the time the Norwegian could recover he was in 68th place, dead last in the field. (1)
But that is not the end of the story. He didn’t quit, and began a methodical charge overcoming other athletes one by one over the next 22 meters to advance into 5th place. No longer was he out of the race, now he could actually begin to see the leaders with an eye to overcome them. And that is precisely what he did blasting past the pack to finish and claim the gold medal.
Some mistakenly believe that they could never have a place in heaven. God could never forgive them, they think for their past falls. That simply isn’t true. Consider a young man named John Mark. The young Christian had the rare privilege to assist Paul and Barnabas on their missionary travels (Acts 12:25, 13:5). But we learn that along the way he quit on the endeavor abandoned them in Pamphylia to return to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). Paul was more than a little perturbed by John Mark’s desertion and refused to include him on the next mission (Acts 15:36-19). But that is not the end of the story. John Mark fell but refused to stay down. In a short letter from Paul’s pen we see that the Apostle again refers to him as his fellow worker (Philemon 24). Then, when Paul faced the completion of his race of faith, he asked to see Mark and esteemed him as useful to his ministry (2 Timothy 4:11).
Before His betrayal Jesus told the disciples that they would all stumble that night because of Him. But Peter boldly protested that even if the rest of them stumbled he would not and promised that even if it cost him his life he would not deny the Lord (Matthew 26:31-35). Peter was certainly there that day and understood that Jesus said plainly that those who deny him before men will be denied before God by the Lord (Matthew 10:33). But on that night Peter denied that he knew Jesus three times, even swearing “I do not know the man (Matthew 26:69-75)!” Peter fell hard but that is not the end of the story. After His resurrection the Lord took the opportunity at a seaside breakfast to comfort Peter and restore him into His services (John 21:13-19). The Apostle followed the Lord’s example and glorified God by staying faithful until his death.
There are many other examples of those who fell but continued on in their race to achieve victory. Samson (Judges 16:20, Hebrews 11:32), Jonah (Jonah 1:2-3, 3:1-3), Moses (Numbers 20:12, Matthew 17:3) all recovered from ugly falls and went on by faith to victory. “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1).” Christians, our race is not a sprint but a lifelong campaign of faithfulness. Krueger’s fall did not take away his place on the platform and the gold medal. If he continued for a prize that will fade (1 Corinthians 9:25) how much more should we persevere for the greater prize?
“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it (1 Corinthians 9:24).”