The Arlington International Racecourse is located in Arlington Heights, Illinois. The track officially opened in 1927 with 20,000 people as Jockey Joe Boliero won riding a horse named Luxembourg to victory.
In 1981 Arlington was the home of the world’s first million-dollar thoroughbred race: The Arlington Million.
The result of that race is immortalized in bronze at the top of the paddock at Arlington, where a statue shows jockey Bill Shoemaker riding John Henry as the horse charged down the stretch, coming from way back, to catch The Bart at the wire.
It was a thrilling come-from-behind victory over the 40 to 1 long shot, and the statue celebrates Thoroughbred racing’s inaugural million dollar race. The sculpture’s name is “Against All Odds.”
The sculpture is captivating; it is mesmerizing. You can feel the tension, hear the crowd, see the strain and effort of both horse and jockey. The horse ran the race and, against all odds, became the champion, receiving the victor’s crown at the end.
Running the race is, of course, a paramount objective at Arlington. It is also a paramount objective of the Christian. I don’t mean that each of us must go to a race track and run a marathon, sprint, or even a trip around the track’s oval.
Rather, I am referring to running the race in our witness and daily walk with the Lord.
The Apostle Paul uses the race analogy often in his letters to the churches of his day as an illustration of the dedication and focus the Christian should have in spreading the gospel of Christ. Consider the following passages:
“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. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. but I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
“An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.”
2 Timothy 2:5
“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,“
Ultimately, Paul says:
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
2 Timothy 4:7
The horses competing in the race rely on the jockey and their training to carry them through at the race. They only have their own resources to rely upon, and on that day in 1981, John Henry pulled out the stops and won the race, receiving his crown. It was a perishable crown, but that is not what the Christian race is all about. The Christian’s crown will be presented by the Lord Jesus Christ and it will be an imperishable crown. In the words of our Lord:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Train yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually for the race that is set before you. Keep running the race even when it is hard and you are tired. Remember that you have the Holy Spirit to strengthen you, to guide you and to give you the words to speak as you witness to others of Jesus and His love.
The race we are in as Christians is not one on which to wager. Our running is secure in Jesus and through His grace, power and might we will, like Paul, fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith.
Father, I pray that You would enable me to finish the race You have set before me. I pray, too, that I would keep the faith You have given me and that I would persevere to the end as Your child, through Jesus Christ my Lord and my Redeemer.