Roger Bannister died last week. He was the first runner to break the 4-minute mile on May 6, 1954 with a record time of 3:59.4. In 2012 he told the Associated Press, “It’s amazing that more people have climbed Mount Everest than have broken the 4-minute mile.”
The record lasted only 46 days and was broken on June 21, 1954 by Australian runner, John Landy. That set the stage for a showdown between Roger and John at the Empire Games in Vancouver, British Columbia on August 9, 1954. Roger won with a time of 3:58.8. John was second with 3:59. It was the first time two men had run a mile under four minutes in the same race and it was a faster time for Roger.
At the European Championships later that summer in Bern, Switzerland, Roger set a new record with a time of 3:43.8. Every time he ran it seemed he got better and faster. He was chosen as Sports Illustrated’s first Sportsman of the Year in 1954. He retired and became a doctor. As chairman of the Sports Council between 1971 and 1974, he developed the first test for anabolic steroids. He said his greatest achievements were his family, his grandchildren and his medical work.
Billy Graham’s funeral was last week. He was the greatest evangelist who ever lived. He preached in person to more than 215 million people in more than 185 countries and to several billion through radio and television broadcasts. Only Heaven will reveal how many millions of people came to Christ under the preaching and influence of Dr. Graham. His staff has estimated some 3.2 million people responded to the invitation Billy would always extend at his crusades for people to “accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.”
Born in 1918, Billy became a Christian at the age of 15, ironically at a revival service held in Charlotte, North Carolina, with evangelist Mordecai Ham. Billy was ordained to the ministry in 1939 at a small Baptist church in Palatka, Florida and was married in 1943 to his wife, Ruth. They were married almost 64 years. He wrote 33 books and his autobiography was aptly titled, “Just As I Am,” the signature song sung at all of his crusades. He served as a spiritual adviser and counselor to 12 different U.S. Presidents and was listed by the Gallup organization as one of the Ten Most Admired Men in the World. A remarkable recognition he received 61 different times including 55 years in a row through 2017.
Consider the lives of Roger Bannister and Billy Graham: Two great runners and two great races.
One wanted to be better than anyone else in the race.
The other wanted to help as many others as possible get in the race and run it well.
One ran in circles hoping to beat all the others who were running in circles. (Think about it. Even if you run faster than the others, you’re still running in circles.)
The other ran from city to city and country to country, to preach the Gospel to as many people as he possibly could.
One ran to set a record.
One ran to win as many people to Christ as possible.
One ran to beat a stopwatch and wanted to outrun the others in the race with him.
The other ran because he knew his time was limited and he wanted to reach as many others as he could to run the race with him. (He even hoped others ran the race better than he did.)
One stopped running his race not long after he set the record in 1954.
The other never stopped until his heart stopped in 2018, 64 years later.
One died at the age of 88. March 3, 2018.
One died at the age of 99. February 21, 2018.
Two weeks apart.
Both were pioneers.
Both were incredibly disciplined.
Both never gave up.
Both made a difference in this world.
Both encouraged others by their example.
One ran to set a record. One ran to win as many people to Christ as possible.
One knew the records he set and the awards he received. The other won’t know the final results of his race until the Bema Seat judgment (2 Corinthians 5:10), when we all stand "before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”
YOU AND I ARE RUNNING A RACE. Are we chasing temporal achievements or eternal ones? 1 Corinthians 9:25 says, “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.”
Are we disciplined? Are we constantly training so we can improve? Are we running to win or have we become comfortable running in circles? Are we content to run the race ourselves or are we constantly looking for everyone else we can find to run the race with us?
1 Corinthians 9:24 says, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.”
In 2 Timothy 4:7 Paul said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
Hebrews 12:1 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us …"
© 2018. Barry L. Cameron
Barry L. Cameron has been the Senior Pastor of Crossroads since 1992 when the church was averaging 188 in morning worship. Pastor Cameron and his wife, Janis, have three children and two grandsons. He’s the author of the bestseller: The ABCs of Financial Freedom, Contagious Generosity, and The Financial Freedom Workbook. The Cameron family has been completely debt free since November 2001.