Will you finish this Christian race and claim the prize of eternal life?
The Monaco Grand Prix stands out as one of auto racing's most challenging, exciting and treacherous events. Run on the narrow, twisting streets of Monte Carlo, the race is always difficult, and the 1982 version was no exception. This was the 40th time the annual event took place. Many competitors started the race, but the demanding nature of the grand prix claimed numerous casualties and retirements. Some competitors simply ran out of steam and fell by the wayside. This is normal in this race; a large number of those who start do not finish. After more than 90 percent of the distance, though, a respectable number of competitors were still involved. Then bad weather struck, creating all sorts of problems and almost impossible driving conditions. The temptation to give up was almost irresistible. But having come so far and being so near the end, most of the drivers struggled on, hoping to finish. But some competitors misjudged the conditions, which became so bad that many went off the track — even some of the favorites. Then, on the last lap, the two leading drivers ran out of fuel, and the third-place man found himself not only winning the first prize, but also being the only finisher!
The Christian race
By analogy, we as true Christians can draw many spiritual lessons from this race. Let's look at some of them. We all have problems — in our marriages, in our families, at work or school and in our spiritual lives. But we have a goal — a prize well worth winning — that keeps us going! That great goal — the perfect prize — is the one offered by God to every human being — the incredible human potential of becoming part of God's spiritual Family. In the Bible, the number 40 signifies trial and testing, and the 40th Monaco Grand Prix was certainly that. But life itself is a difficult period of trial and testing in which we are to build character and learn right ways. In what is known as the "Sermon on the Mount," Jesus Christ summed up the purpose of life for us when He said, "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect" (Matt. 5:48). We couldn't be given a more difficult task! The Monte Carlo racing circuit is far from the fastest in the world. It is one of the slower races because it takes place on the town's roads (closed to ordinary traffic, of course!). Yet the Monte Carlo raceway is one of the most difficult in the world. It is narrow, uneven and tortuous, with hairpin curves and even a dark tunnel. Progress is difficult and total concentration is vital to avoid accidents that could easily prove fatal. Isn't life like that? To win our race and gain the prize of eternal life, we are told to "enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matt. 7:13- 14). Many competitors started this grand prix, but by the race's later stages some had fallen out. That sounds like what happened in the parable of the sower (Matt. 13:4). And those grand-prix participants who ran out of fuel may well remind us of the story of the 10 virgins in Matthew 25:1-13. This parable shows that we can fail to reach our life goal because of lack of forethought and planning. God's Spirit is essential fuel for Christians, and we need, so to speak, a reserve supply on hand at all times for emergencies. Even at this late stage at Monaco, with all the retirements, the race still appeared to be running much as it had in previous years. There was no hint of what was to come. Perhaps some competitors were complacent, satisfied with their positions. The Bible warns us not to have a complacent, self-satisfied attitude near the end of our spiritual race, or we will miss out in a most agonizing way (II Pet. 3:3-4).
At Monte Carlo, the worst problems did come near the end of the race, when it started to rain. It's difficult enough to drive a racing car equipped with dry-weather tires on a circuit already carrying a lot of worn-off rubber plus the residue of oil leaks. Add rain to the track and the surface becomes as treacherous as ice, and it becomes extremely difficult to stay on the track, even at reduced speed. Steering becomes almost inoperative and the car is likely to slip and slide at random and without warning. The urge to give up is powerful, and continuing at all — let alone with the intent of winning — requires 100 percent concentration. The Bible says we will be faced with big problems of all sorts near the end of this age. When problems arise, people who seemed all right racing when under good conditions will drop out (Matt. 13:21, 24:10). They are only fair-weather drivers. There will be little love of fellowman left in the world (Matt. 24:12, II Tim. 3:1-5). Philippians 3:13-14 warns us not to think we've already won. We should forget what is behind us and push forward to what's ahead. We "press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." That goal is eternal life.
Finish the course
In any race, the only way to obtain your prize is to finish the course. In the Christian race, to obtain the "prize" of salvation and eternal life, we must endure to the end (Matt. 10:22, 24:13). How can we endure adverse conditions and resist the temptation to give up? In I Corinthians 9:25-27 the apostle Paul tells us that, just as an athlete exercises self-control in all things, he fought his body to conquer it. That is our battle day in and day out — controlling our bodies and minds and winning the struggle against Satan and his influences. And the way we do it is the same way that Jesus Christ did it as a human being — by calling on the power of the Creator of the universe to help. The winner of the 1982 Monaco Grand Prix had to endure to the end in order to win. And make no mistake: We as Christians are in the race of life, and to win the prize we must run the race of our lives, not giving up, to the end.