I don't watch spectator sports events, races or anything else along that line. Fast airplanes (unless they are helping me get to my destination) are not what make me smile, neither are race car drivers and their hair raising speeds. But I have to admit, when I saw the news about the two recent tragedies impacting the spectator sports field, I had to have a closer look.
The first tragedy affected pilot Jimmy Leeward and his airplane "Galloping Ghost." He was competing in the Reno Air Show back in September. Evidently his airplane got out of hand and galloped right into the crowd killing 11 and injuring over 70. (A friend of ours was in that crowd! I am so glad that I was not!)
The second tragedy just occurred this past Sunday, when at the Indy 500 car races in Las Vagas, over 15 cars ended up careening out of control, with parts flying in all directions. One well known racer, Dan Wheldon age 33, was killed, leaving behind a wife and two young sons, and thousands of mourning fans. The fact that it was only he that died is amazing when you watch the news videos and see the crash and pile up in slow motion. (His black car is pictured below left, just beginning to take air. He was doing over 220 mph at the time, and flew over several cars before crashing end over end and then hitting the safety fence on the side where his car was already in flames.)
What was to be a glorious day and would have given Wheldon some $2 million in earnings, if he had won, turned into a tragic wreck that shut down the rest of the races and left many of his comrades reconsidering the meaning of life. Yes, sadly, for Wheldon and Leeward, their ultimate love of racing eventually cost them their very lives.
As I sit back and consider these events, I'm reminded of a different race…the race that we are called to run.
"Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible." I Cor 9:24, 25
Yes…we are all running the race for eternal life…but we are going for that incorruptible crown, not the one that will pass away. And our winning wont keep others in the race from winning…in fact, if we are faithful, it will also help others to be faithful as well. What a strange dichotomy from how the worldly racing scene works today…which is based off the principle, "Survival of the fittest and fastest!"
I don't want to cast reproach on the grief of the families represented by the men above. It is so sad, and my heart hurts for those affected. Yet their tragedy causes me to stop and think seriously. Is a gold medal or even a few million dollars really worth dying for…just to have a little fame and glory for a few minutes here on earth?? Evidently these men thought so.
I don't know about you, but if I'm going to go out in a blaze of glory, I hope it will be a blaze that will really count for eternity and bring many others to the cross. Like the blaze that John Huss died for, like the blaze that snuffed out the lives of many Waldensians, and the blaze that put a song on Jerome's lips as he went singing as a martyr to the stake. Can you imagine knowing that you are about to die for the Lord, and yet having such strength and fortitude? Only a true servant of Christ could possess such dignity.
"He [Jerome] was led out to the same spot upon which Huss had yielded up his life. He went singing on his way, his countenance lighted up with joy and peace. His gaze was fixed upon Christ, and to him death had lost its terrors. When the executioner, about to kindle the pile, stepped behind him, the martyr exclaimed: "Come forward boldly; apply the fire before my face. Had I been afraid, I should not be here." His last words, uttered as the flames rose about him, were a prayer, "Lord, Almighty Father," he cried, "have pity upon me, and pardon my sins; for Thou knowest that I have always loved Thy truth." His voice ceased, but his lips continued to move in prayer. When the fire had done its work, the ashes of the martyr, with the earth upon which they rested, were gathered up, and like those of Huss, were thrown into the Rhine." Great Controversy, p. 115.
These men weren't applauded with earthly honor or glory, but I know that God in heaven saw, and the prize He has prepared will be far greater than any earthly prize. And that's the prize I long for. It's the prize that our dear Iranian Pastor in Iran is still contending for. That's the prize that we all should be striving for…even if it costs us our very life.
So as we reflect on the short life we've been given, let's make sure we are spending it for what really matters. If we haven't chosen something worth living for, chances are that we haven't chosen something worth dying for either. The two go hand in hand…so let's make sure we are in the right race!!
"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." Heb 12:1, 2