“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross. Hebrews 12: 1-2
Life can be compared to a relay race. St. Paul compared it to a race – “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous Judge, will award unto me on that day.” 2 Timothy 4:7-8
We talk about a lot of things as Christians but I am often left wondering if we understand what we are saying. Actually many of us understand they are in a race; the problem is they do not understand the kind of race.
We talk about the race is not for the swift but for those who can endure and somehow seem to think that we are running a 3,000 metre race.
The race we are running is a relay. We all have a very important part to play; but the success in this race is not only about how strong or impressive we run; success is also bound up in how good or willing we are when it is time for the hand over.
Many find it difficult to hand over the baton because they are self-centred and desirous of running the entire race. But this race before us is about team work, community and fellowship. Still some want to go it alone. Doing that will cause us to be disqualified.
This race calls for courage. Courage to run, to persevere and to hand over when the time is right.
A classic example would be church organisations and persons at the helm who initially meant well but the reality is that they have finished their course and time for them to hand over the baton so the team remains relevant is running out.
This happens when our vision is clouded with self rather than having a clean focus of the prize of salvation which Jesus Christ set before us.
Our performance should not be based on short cuts or impressing others or being hailed as hero, but honesty, hard work, courage and being mindful that it is not for or about us but those after us.
People are looking on at our performance and it will either be criticised or emulated. Therefore it should be our best, honest, courageous and of such a high quality that it contributes to the success of the team and not done for selfish gain.
We must be careful what we plant today. It not only determines what we will reap but what others looking on may plant too.
A true story is told of a Christian businessman who was growing old and knew it was time to choose a successor to take over the business. Instead of choosing one of his directors or his children, he decided to do something different. He called all the young executives in his company together.
He said, “It is time for me to step down and choose the next CEO. I have decided to choose one of you.”
The young executives were shocked, but the boss continued. “I am going to give each one of you a SEED today – one very special SEED. I want you to plant the seed, water it, and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from the seed I have given you. I will then judge the plants that you bring, and the one I choose will be the next CEO.”
One man, named Jim, was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed. He went home and excitedly, told his wife the story.
She helped him get a pot, soil and compost and he planted the seed. Everyday, he would water it and watch to see if it had grown.
After about three weeks, some of the other executives began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow. Jim kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew. Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by, still nothing. By now, others were talking about their plants, but Jim didn’t have a plant and he felt like a failure.
Six months went by – still nothing in Jim’s pot. He just knew he had killed his seed. Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing. Jim didn’t say anything to his colleagues, however. He just kept watering and fertilizing the soil – He so wanted the seed to grow.
A year finally went by and all the young executives of the company brought their plants to the CEO for inspection.
Jim told his wife that he wasn’t going to take an empty pot. But she asked him to be honest about what happened. Jim felt sick at his stomach, it was going to be the most embarrassing moment of his life, but he knew his wife was right.
He took his empty pot to the board room. When Jim arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other executives. They were beautiful – in all shapes and sizes. Jim put his empty pot on the floor and many of his colleagues laughed, a few felt sorry for him!
When the CEO arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted his young executives. Jim just tried to hide in the back.
“My, what great plants, trees, and flowers you have grown,” said the CEO. “Today one of you will be appointed the next CEO!”
All of a sudden, the CEO spotted Jim at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered the financial director to bring him to the front. Jim was terrified. He thought, “The CEO knows I’m a failure! Maybe he will have me fired!” When Jim got to the front, the CEO asked him what had happened to his seed – Jim told him the story. The CEO asked everyone to sit down except Jim. He looked at Jim, and then announced to the young executives, “Behold your next Chief Executive! His name is Jim!” Jim couldn’t believe it. Jim couldn’t even grow his seed. How could he be the new CEO the others said?
Then the CEO said, “One year ago today, I gave everyone in this room a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds; they were dead – it was not possible for them to grow. All of you, except Jim, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Jim was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, he is the one who will be the new Chief Executive!”