I love sports. I love playing sports, watching sports, talking sports . . . I’ve even been known to dream about sports! I learned through years of coaching that challenging young kids to do a little conditioning or running over the summer helps them prepare to play. I realize that many kids will decide not to run at all. A few will begin training within a week of practice starting. Another group, however, will really work at it. So I challenged my U-10 soccer team to prepared to run the mile.
My nine year old son, Zach, was one of the players I challenged. Yes, we had to push him a little bit at times to run but for the most part he really worked at it. He even decided to run a 5K while we were on vacation that he finished in under twenty-four minutes. Zach’s soccer team gathered to run the mile and I expected him to blow everyone off the track.
All the boys started running. To my surprise, Zach held back. He ran with one of his teammates encouraging him along the way. With about two hundred meters to go Zach ran out of the middle of the pack. He finished first just a few seconds in front of the next person.
Later that day I asked Zach why he didn’t run his fastest time. He looked at me and said, “Dad, I know I could have run faster, but that would have discouraged everyone. This way I was able to help them along.”
Ironically, about twenty-five years ago after training for two hours in 100 degree heat at college soccer camp, my team was running full field sprints. We had run the entire length of the field and back nine times. We were all dead tired. The coach said we had one sprint left if we did our very best. I took the coach literally. I mustered every once of strength left in my body and lurched forward, at the other end of the field only one guy was still with me. I touched the line and ran like my life depended on it. About fifty yards from the finish line the Assistant Coach sprinted toward me and started chewing me out for discouraging my teammates. I turned around and realized I had left my teammates way behind.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 explains that in a race all the runners run but only one gets the prize. It then says to run in such a way as to get that prize. As the verses continue they go on to explain that we are to go after God as if we are in a race, but that we are to encourage others so they can win the race too.
My son, Zach, recognized something at nine that I didn’t learn until I was reprimanded in college. Sometimes acts of Godliness come from listening to the Holy Spirit. Other times God uses people around us to get us in line. Regardless of your path, preach the Gospel so others can know about Jesus Christ . . . and then run toward Him with all the strength you have!