When the barrier of the four minute mile fell, a time that seemed impossible for a human being to reach, there was nothing on that day to indicate: today is the day!
Roger Bannister, who would later become a medical doctor and academic, stepped up to the line on May 6, 1954 before 3,000 people, and some of the most elite runners of his time. He had probably run this race many times in his mind; but due to severe wind, earlier in the day Bannister had withdrawn from the race, only to reenter after the winds died down.
Having endured the emotional turmoil to run or not run, wind and weather, perhaps pressure from coaches and teammates, he ran the race of his life. He overcame the adversity of the day, and entered the day the Lord had prepared for him with a time of 3 minutes 59.4 seconds.
Incredibly, it was due to an apparent failure at the Olympic Games, coming in fourth in his event, when Bannister set his mind to breaking the four minute mile barrier. He could have resigned himself to a fourth place at the Olympic Games, but instead, he used that moment to catapult himself to a greater moment: an impossible moment.
His record of 3 minutes 59.4 seconds, that legendary four minute mile barrier that for so long stood as an insurmountable obstacle, was beat again two weeks later, and then again, and again. When one did the impossible, others found the strength to do it as well.
Dr. Bannister had dropped out due to adverse conditions. What he believed he needed in order to run his race was not present. The best conditions were not there. Better to drop out than fail, or fall short. Yet, when the slightest of opportunities presented itself, he stepped up to the line.
Many of us are facing challenges that we had not expected. We are tried, worn out, and ready to drop out. Yet, Dr. Bannister reminds us that in the face of apparent failure or set back, we can choose to get back in the race, and overcome the impossible, even our own doubt. Paul beautifully inspires us:
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing (II Tim. 4:7-8).
Paul has fought the good fight, in faith; and he reveals as the chapter unfolds, adversity, present in his race, that could have caused him to withdraw. Yet, he stayed in the race, and finished. After the finish line, there is a crown of righteousness, a victors crown. From Paul’s other writings we know he understands that we have received the imputed righteousness of Messiah, here pictured as a first place, victorious crown; but not only for him, no, for all who love His, Yeshua/Jesus, appearing.
Paul faced trial, and personal attacks; still he endured. Paul does not give us his finish time. We do not know how fast or slow he ran; some disagree with me on this point, and that is fine, but if all we can do at times is crawl in the race, we are still in the race … the race that Messiah has already won.
As we read in the psalms, “This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps. 118:34). This day, the one He has made, could be the day that the impossible becomes, not just possible, but present reality. Paul did not exhort us to wait on the perfect conditions, just be in the race. There is a precious reward just up ahead, Christ Himself.
When we read of Paul’s endurance, written in a deep, dark dungeon, knowing what he had endured for many years, most of us would understand if he said, “I give up Timothy. I tried. I failed. Here I die.” But he did not: “ … my time of departure has come, I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith…” He kept believing. He held on.
As the Holy Spirit revealed to me recently: hope takes hold, and faith holds on. I pray that we move past the starting line, get in the lane He has set us in, and keep running – when our muscles spasm, our breath fails, our strength has gone – when everything in us says “stop.” I pray we keep going. As we do, He is faithful to do the impossible on the day He has made, and even when He does not, His grace will keep us in His race. It could be today that the insurmountable obstacle moves, but we will not know until He makes the day.
Be well. Shalom.