Seth Goldstein was running the second loop of his cross country race when another competitor fell in front of him. It didn’t take long for Seth to realize that boy was in a lot of trouble. In an interview Seth said, “His lips were turning blue and his eyes were rolled back in his head.” A terrified Seth called out to the crowd for someone to call 911. The young boy on the ground began to have a seizure, so Seth used his lifeguard training skills and rolled him on his side so that he wouldn’t choke. Seth stayed with the other runner encouraging him that he would be all right, until the EMTs arrived and took over. That is when Seth surprised everyone.
He asked the EMTs if it was all right to finish the race. The question caught everyone off guard. They had assumed he was from the stands, not a participant. When the surprise wore off they all said of course it was fine to finish. Seth completed the race with the slowest time, coming in last, but crossed the finish line to the sound of applause and cheering. Heroes win different trophies sometimes.
I liked this story because it illustrates an important lesson for all of us, a lesson that Jesus taught his disciples. The rich young ruler had just walked away from Jesus, sad, because he couldn’t give up his wealth as Jesus had requested. Jesus turned to his disciples and said, “Many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first” (Matthew 19:30). Jesus was teaching his disciples that obedience required sacrificing things that were less important, and choosing instead the things that were most important.
I also like the fact that Seth wanted to finish the race, even though he knew he would be listed as the “loser” on the roster. It didn’t matter if he came in last as much as it mattered that he finished the race. The apostle Paul would “high-five” that priority. Paul preached, “let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
I would not be writing about Seth today if he had chosen to run for a trophy. He would just be another guy who won a race. Seth stopped and showed compassion. Seth let someone matter more than something. Seth finished a race he knew he was going to lose. Seth showed character and became a hero.
People are watching you run your race today. Many, if not most, of the people you see today probably know you are a person of faith. The way you run your race is more important than the trophy at the finish line. In fact, the trophy at the finish line will be greater if you take the time for others instead of trying to finish first. I often say that most ministry is an interruption to whatever you have planned. The fact you don’t have time is often the indicator God wants you to take the time.
Run your race with God’s priorities. If he is your Lord, you have asked him to interrupt you anytime he needs you. I can almost guarantee you that will be your challenge at some point. I hope Seth will come to mind whenever we are faced with the choice to win a race or do what is most important even if it means we come in last.
Heroes win different trophies sometimes. Let’s tie our running shoes on and get going. I hope several of us finish last today!