by The Rev. Canon Jan Naylor Cope
Paul takes on a markedly different tone today – warning of the dangerous influence of others and presenting his own life and example as the better path. In an allusion to Greek foot races, Paul writes, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you. Only let us hold fast to what we have attained.” (3:14-16)
This particular passage called to mind the 1981 film, “Chariots of Fire” based on a true story of two athletes in the 1924 Olympics. One of the athletes, Eric Liddell, was born in China of Scottish missionary parents, and his devout sister disapproved of Liddell’s plans to pursue competitive running. Liddell, however, saw running as a way of glorifying God. As he explained, “I believe that God made me for a purpose. But He also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.”
On his way to the Olympics, Liddell learns that his race is scheduled for a Sunday, and he refuses to run the race, despite enormous pressure, because his Christian convictions prevent him from running on the Sabbath. One of his teammates, however, yields his place in a race scheduled on the following Thursday. On the Sunday he was supposed to race, Liddell preached a sermon on Isaiah 40:31, “But those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run, and not be weary, they shall walk, and not faint.” Liddell goes on to win the gold medal, but his convictions remind us that we are to hold fast to what we have attained in Christ – keeping the first things first.
When have you been pressured to do something that was in conflict with your Christian convictions? How did you respond? If you resisted, what enabled you to “hold fast?”
Gracious God, thank you for the gifts you have given us for the upbuilding of your Kingdom. Help us always to use them in accordance with your will and for your purpose and to hold fast to that which we have attained in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.
The Rev. Canon Jan Naylor Cope is Vicar of the Washington National Cathedral