-by Nico Bougas

62 years ago a British athlete named Roger Bannister became the first person to run the mile in less than four minutes. He did this in May 1954. The very next month, John Landy of Australia topped this record by 1.4 seconds.

On the 7th of August of that same year, at the Empire Games in Vancouver, British Columbia, the two athletes met for a historic race. There was tremendous excitement and interest in the race. For weeks before the newspapers had been giving it a big build up, describing it as “the race of the century.”

The big day arrived. Nobody paid any attention to the other runners. The question was simply, who would win, Bannister or Landy? 

As they moved into the last lap, the other contestants were trailing far behind. Landy was ahead. It looked as though he would win. As Landy neared the finishing line, he was haunted by the question: “Where is Bannister? Finally, he could stand the strain no longer. He looked over his shoulder. As he did so, his step faltered. Bannister surged past him to break the tape. Interviewed by a Time magazine reporter after the race Landy said. “I would have won that race, if only I hadn’t looked back.”

One of the saddest things in the Christian church is to see people going along well in the Christian life. However somewhere along the line they looked back and lose out in the great race. Somehow they take their eyes off the finishing line. Somehow they falter and fail to win the great prize.

The Bible gives us several examples of people who started well but came unstuck. There was Saul, who for all his great opportunity as the chosen king of Israel, for all his courage, prestige, and popularity concluded his life in a state of hatred, jealousy, superstition, and suicide. [

Samson for all his supernatural strength showed a pathetic weakness for women and forfeited his God-given opportunity to become a great leader of his people.

There was Solomon for all his legendary wisdom allowed all his foreign wives to bring their heathen idols and his own loyalty to the one true God took a tumble.

We can look in the New Testament at Hymenaeus and Alexander who made shipwreck of their faith. And then there is Demas who Paul said had deserted him, “having loved this present world

What a tragedy when someone, who has tasted of the goodness of God, goes back. Peter has strong words about this and compares it to a “dog returning to his vomit” – 2 Peter 2.22. It is totally amazing that anyone who has tasted of the goodness of God and His love and mercy would want to leave His glorious light and return to the darkness.

Beware the tragedy of looking back when you are running a good race. As Paul says, “You ran well. What has hindered you that you should not obey the truth?” – Gal 5.7.

Jesus said, ’No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God.” – Luke 9:62.


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