One of the most exciting races in the Olympics took place in Munich, Germany, in 1972. The favorite in the men's 800 meter race was Evgeniy Arzhanov from the Soviet Union. He had not lost an 800-meter finals race in four years, and everyone expected that record to remain intact.
The American runner was David Wottle, an exciting runner who always wore a painter's hat when he ran, making it easy to find him in the pack. Wottle's strategy in most races was to stay near or at the back of the pack of runners, waiting until very near the end to "kick" into a fast run, catching up to and often passing all the other runners before the finish line. But Wottle had run his fastest time ever just to get to the Olympics, and some felt he couldn't run that fast again. Plus, he had been less than healthy in the days leading up to the Olympics.
The race began predictably. A couple runners from Kenya started out fast, taking the lead early. Wottle was way back in sixth place as Arzhanov took over the lead from the Kenyans. Then, in the last two hundred meters, Wottle thought he noticed Arzhanov begin to slow down. Knowing that the end of the race was his strongest part, Wottle continued to "kick," catching up to Arzhanov at the finish line.
The record books show both Arzhanov and Wottle with the same time (1:45.9), but they list David Wottle as the winner of the gold medal-by a "nose," Arzhanov said.
Obeying God and choosing right may seem like an Olympic race. A lot of times it's hard to be honest, for example. Friends may make fun of you for being honest. The truth may be embarrassing. Sometimes being truthful can even get you into trouble! In the short run, honesty may seem like a "losing" strategy.
But even if honesty is hard in the short run, it is better in the long run. You may feel as if you're making a mistake by being honest. You may wonder if you're losing out by doing the right thing. But even when it's hard, honesty really is the best policy. Because it's right. Because God "watches over the path of the godly" (Psalm 1:6). Because life is a race to the finish (1 Corinthians 9:24; 2 Timothy 4:7-8).
REFLECT: Do you think David Wottle would have won if he had tried to keep up with the Kenyan runners? Why or why not? If you decide to be honest only when it's in your best interests, how will you know when it's "better" to be honest? If you decide (and seek God's help) to be honest all the time, do you think your choices will be clearer? easier? right?
ACT: Challenge a friend or family member to a race. Use the race as an opportunity to share the message of today's reading.
PRAY: "God, sometimes I feel like I'm losing when I do the honest thing. Please help me to remember that I'm in the race to the finish."