Back in 1993 the NCAA Division II College Cross Country Championships had a bizarre and terribly unfair finish. The 6.2 mile course had been marked out with flags by the race officials. But about midway through the race, the front runner, and subsequently those following him, missed a place where the course turned. One runner, Mike Delcavo of Western State College in Colorado, saw the mistake and made the correct turn, waving as many runners as possible to see the direction they were supposed to go.
“I was waving for them to follow me and yelling ‘this is the right way,'” he told an interviewer after the race. But only four other runners followed him. All the others followed the pack, who were going off course and taking an unfair shortcut.
Here’s the worst part, though Delcavo and the other four were right, race officials allowed the abbreviated route to stand as the “official course” and Delcavo officially finished 123rd. Had the ruling sided with the official course, he would have finished first.
“That’s not fair!” You’re right, it’s not. But that’s how it was and poor Mike could do nothing about it.
What about the girl who says, “I wouldn’t compromise. I didn’t date non-Christians. I didn’t have sex. And all these other girls who ignored God’s moral principles are all married and having kids and I’m still single. Is that what I get for doing the right thing?”
Then there’s the business guy who refused to lie, cheat or mislead, but struggles in business while many of his compromising colleagues are raking in profits, driving expensive cars and living in luxury. How fair is that?
Does it always work when you play by the rules? No, not always. In fact, in this fallen world, a lot of the time, when you do the right thing, you may pay a price.
So should we stop doing the right thing and just go with the flow?
That begs the question, do we do the right thing because of what we get out of it or because it’s right to do the right thing? Should we be honest in business only because it builds a good reputation or should we be honest in business because it’s right. Should we maintain high moral standards so that good things come our way or should we practice God’s principles simply because we belong to him?
In actuality, the fact that life is not fair in this sin corrupted world helps us to keep our motives in check. We live by God’s values because they are God’s values, not because they are necessarily rewarded in this life. Sometimes they are not.
But the finish line isn’t in this life anyway, and the final judge doesn’t get his credentials from the NCAA. Ultimately, we’re running a much bigger race than a six mile cross country. Our’s is a life-long super marathon. And for that race, I want to play by the rules.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7–8 NLT).