When I was a teenager, together with a large number of young people from our church, I went on a long road trip up the coast of NSW and into Queensland in Australia.
It was the middle of summer and it was hot, so we rather illogically decided to have a 10 km running race on the road. I guess we were young and indestructible.
Running was never my greatest talent, and that’s an understatement. Although I could jog slowly forever, I couldn’t run quickly. That’s why, around 10 minutes into the race, not only had everyone passed me, but I couldn’t see anyone up ahead in the distance any more. All of the dozen or so other runners had left me for dead.
I just plodded on. It was a very lonely race. All I had to look at was the bitumen of the road below me, the green of the trees beside me, and the blue sky and blistering sun above.
And then, a few kilometres before the end, I saw a long runner up ahead in the distance, and as time passed, I caught up more and more. As I drew nearer I could see that he was one of my circle of friends whom I considered much more physically and stronger than me.
As I drew up alongside we chatted, and I found out that he was really struggling. He didn’t think he could finish. I ran alongside him and encouraged him until the end of the race was in sight.
I let him finish ahead of me. After all, it wasn’t as if I was going to win. But I felt like a winner. In this case, perhaps the winner really did come last!
It’s not true in the systems of this world, in which by definitions must always come first.
Charles Darwin’s notion of the “survival of the fittest” encapsulates the idea that the winners are the “fittest,” which means the cleverest, the strongest, the most ruthless, and the most brutal. Essentially, the winners are simply those who win, through any means.
Jesus has already run. He has already won.
In our society today, we can see the winners defined as those make the most money, have the biggest followings on social media, have the upper hand in relationships, or those who win at politics or in the courts of law. The winners are simply those who come first, and everyone else is a loser.
But it’s different in the kingdom of God. Jesus said,
…many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first (Matt 19:30; See also Matt 20:16).
When you are living out the principles of the kingdom of Christ: the principles of love, kindness, integrity, compassion, and mercy, the world will make you feel as if you are “last”, a loser. That’s because you are operating out of principles that, instead of rewarding, the systems of this world actively punishes.
Like the apostle says, the Christian life is a race (1 Cor 9:2-27). You need to keep your focus on the finish line (Phil 3:13–14), and not on the crowd around you who are often booing you and trying to discourage you.
And keep your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). He has already run. He has already won, And because he has won, you will be a winner also, sharing in his victory – even if you do come last.
Article supplied with thanks to Dr Eliezer Gonzalez. Dr Eli Gonzalez is the Senior Pastor of Good News Unlimited and the presenter of the Unlimited radio spots, and The Big Question.