Faithlife Sermons

Finishing the Race

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A father rushes onto the track to help his injured son finish his race. Likewise, the Holy Spirit comes to us to help us finish ours.

Derek Redmond was determined. He had to finish the race. Period.

He was a young British runner, one who had sky rocketed to fame by shattering his country’s 400-meter record at age 19. But then an Achilles tendon injury forced him to withdraw from the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, and he endured five separate surgeries. When the Summer Olympics arrived in Barcelona in 1992, Derek Redmond was absolutely aching for a medal.

On the day of the 400-meter race, 65,000 fans streamed into the stadium, anxious to witness one of sports’ most thrilling events. High in the stands is Derek’s father, Jim, a faithful witness to every one of his son’s world competitions. According to ESPN, Jim is wearing a T-shirt that reads, “Have you hugged your foot today?”

The race begins and Derek breaks through the pack to seize the lead. “Keep it up, keep it up,” his father Jim says to himself. Heading down the backstretch, only 175 meters from the finish line, Derek is a shoo-in to win this semifinal heat and qualify for the Olympic finals.

But then Derek hears a pop. It’s his right hamstring. He pulls up lame, looking as if he has been shot. His leg quivering, Derek begins to hop on the other leg, and then he slows down and falls to the track. Medical personnel run toward him as he sprawls on the ground, holding his right hamstring.

At the very same moment, there is a stir at the top of the stands. Jim Redmond, seeing his son in trouble, begins to race down from the top row. He is pushing toward the track, sidestepping some people and bumping into others. He has no right or credential or permission to be on the track, but all he can think about is getting to his son, to help him up. He is absolutely single-minded about this, and isn’t going to be stopped by anyone.

On the track, Derek realizes that his dream of an Olympic medal is gone. He is alone. The other runners streak across the finish line, with Steve Lewis of the United States winning the race. He is orphaned, as it were, a lonely figure on the track, friendless, parentless and alone.

Tears pour down Derek’s face, and all he can think is, “I don’t want to take a DNF.” A Did-Not-Finish was not even part of his vocabulary. When the medical crew arrives with a stretcher, Derek tells them, “No, there’s no way I’m getting on that stretcher. I’m going to finish my race.” And so he lifts himself to his feet, ever so slowly and carefully, and he starts hobbling down the track.

Suddenly, the crowd realizes that Derek isn’t dropping out of the race. He isn’t limping off the track in defeat, but is actually continuing on one leg, in a fiercely determined effort to make it to the finish line. One painful step at a time, each one a little slower and more agonizing than the one before, Derek limps onward, and the crowd begins to cheer for him. The fans rise to their feet and their cries grow louder and louder, building into a thundering roar.

At that moment, Jim Redmond reaches the bottom of the stands, vaults over the railing, dodges a security guard, and runs out to his son — with two security people running after him. “That’s my son out there,” he yells back at his pursuers, “and I’m going to help him.”

Jim reaches his son at the final curve, about 120 meters from the finish line, and wraps his arm around his waist. “I’m here, son,” Jim says gently, hugging his boy. “We’ll finish together.”

Derek puts his arms around his father’s shoulders and sobs. Together, arm in arm, father and son struggle toward the finish line with 65,000 people cheering, clapping and crying. Just a few steps from the end, with the crowd in an absolute frenzy, Jim releases the grip he has on his son so that Derek can cross the finish line by himself.

“I’m the proudest father alive,” Jim Redmond tells the press afterward, with tears in his eyes. “I’m prouder of him than I would have been if he had won the gold medal. It took a lot of guts for him to do what he did.” Together, they kept a promise they had made to finish the race, no matter what.

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