Goal: To Finish the Race
By DANNY MINTON
If you happened to catch the national news this week, you might have seen the story of Zippy Chippy. Zippy passed away just shy of his 31st birthday, and his fan club gathered to pay tribute to him. His legacy is firmly established in two books about him, one a children’s book, and the chances are that there will be another before long. Zippy Chippy was a racehorse, the grandson of 1964 Kentucky Derby winner Northern Dancer. Northern Dancer ran in 19 races, winning 15 with two in second and two in third. He was so good that the pedigree of all twenty horses in the 2014 Kentucky Derby included Northern Dancer.
Zippy’s pedigree goes further back to Native Dancer, the grandfather of Northern Dancer. Native Dancer won two of the Triple Crown races, and his father, War Admiral, won the Triple Crown. Back one more generation, seen by some as the greatest racehorse of all time was Man O’ War. Zippy Chippy certainly had the genes to be a great horse. The problem with Zippy was he just didn’t like to rush things. He was banned from almost every racetrack because he had a hard time getting along with other horses. However, it was also because Zippy took his time leaving the starting gate, sometimes several seconds after all the other horses had gone. When he finished racing, his record was 0-100. Zippy Chippy lost every race he entered.
After his 88th loss, his owner, Felix Monserrate, stood up for him. “I don’t care if he doesn’t win. It’s just a lot of fun. If you have a bunch of kids and most are successful, but one isn’t, you don’t kick him out of the house.” Zippy Chippy became the favorite of many fans as they cheered on the underdog. He ran 100 races, didn’t win one, but finished them all.
Today’s world puts a lot of emphasis on being first or being the best. We push our children, sometimes to the point of harming them psychologically and socially. Society continually stresses how important it is to be “Number One.” Those who have never reached that goal are often seen as failures, no matter how hard they have worked.
I came across the story of a man who happened to be in an ice cream parlor when a group of young kids dressed in basketball uniforms entered with their coach. They were laughing and celebrating as the coach bought them their treats. The man turned to one little boy and said, “You must have had a great win.” The little boy cheerfully responded, “No, we lost 22 to 10.” So why are you celebrating?” the man asked. “That’s the most points we ever scored!” came the excited reply.
I recently viewed a video online of a group of men my age who played football for the Edna Cowboys. It was a halftime video honoring the team who had made it to the State AA Finals. They happened to be the team that we defeated in 1965. We had a fantastic celebration for having won, but it made me feel good to see a town honor a group who had done their best. They may have lost the game, but they indeed were not losers.
Not everyone can be first or the best at something, and most of us will live our lives never standing on the top pedestal. However, that doesn’t diminish the importance of who we are and what we do in our world. You don’t have to win the race to be a winner; you just have to finish it the best you can.
Open your Bible, and you’ll read about Abraham, Moses, Peter, Paul, David, Barnabas, Noah, John the Baptist, and scores of others that played major roles as leaders in God’s plan. Turning to Hebrews 11, many names occur as men of faith, but the writer doesn’t stop with them. He adds a list of people whose names have gone unknown but were equally important in sharing God with a lost world. “Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.” Hebrews 11:35-40 (NASB)
The important thing is not to be the best but to be the best we can be in this life. Being the most popular is not as important as being respected for what we strive to accomplish. To be seen by men is not as important as to be seen by God. We all have abilities, but they don’t have to be the best to be meaningful and fruitful. I’m an adequate teacher, but not the best. I’m an ample public speaker, but not the best. I’m a decent writer, but not the best. I can’t think of anything that I’m the best at doing. However, not being the best does not diminish the importance of what I do.
As important as he was in sharing the Gospel, Paul knew he had shortcomings. His true feelings come out in a statement he makes to Timothy, “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store 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 longed for his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:6-8 (NIV2011)
Finish the race by doing the best you can. Those who finish doing their best are always winners.
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ
You last sentence is full of wisdom.