According to the Rules

Sven Kramer would be labeled by some as the fastest man on ice. His home is Heerenveen, Friesland, Netherlands. Mr. Kramer has a heritage of skating. He is the son of former speed skater Yep Kramer, and has a four year older brother, Brecht Kramer, who is a speed skater. Sven holds the world records in both the 5000 m. and the 10,000 m. distance speed skating.

As the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada approached, Sven Kramer was expected to take the gold medals in both of the distance races. In the 5000 meters race Kramer took the gold setting a new Olympic record. The following Tuesday he entered the 10,000 meter race. He was feeling good; he was skating well. He had not lost a 10,000 meter race in three years. He was clearly the favorite in the race.

In the 10,000 meter speed skate every lap a skater moves from the outside lane to the inside lane, or vice versa, for a changeover to make sure everybody skates the same distance. Usually there is never a problem. But sometimes a skater becomes very focused on the ice or his method of skating that he forgets where he has been. Thus, the skaters each have a coach on the sideline to remind them when they should be making the change. Sven Kramer had a comfortable lead over his competitor. With eight laps to go in the race he made his mandatory lane change. His coach Gerard Kemkers was writing on his note pad. When he looked up he saw Kramer nearing the red cone and indicated that he should change lanes, not realizing that the skater had already done so. The coach made a mistake. Kramer listened to his coach and switched back to the lane he had been in. Continuing to speed around the track he crossed the finish line well ahead of the skater behind him. He raised his arms in victory. Moments later Sven Kramer’s celebration was shattered when he was told he had been disqualified from the race. Even though he had skated faster than anyone else that day, he had not skated according to the rules.

Our life as a Christian is compared to a race. The writer of Hebrews says, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:1-2).

The spiritual race in which we are running also has rules. Paul wrote to Timothy, “if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules” (2 Tim 2:5).  The 10,000 meter speed skate event at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics illustrates that for us quite well. Sven Kramer thought he had won the race. He  had skated well. There will be those who think they should be admitted into Heaven, but they will be disqualified. Jesus taught, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Mt. 7:21-24).

Sven Kramer lost the speed skating event because he listened to his coach who was wrong. The coach had good intentions and was well meaning, but he was wrong. Jesus warned of false teachers that would lead men astray. On one occasion He pointed out, “They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch” (Mt. 15:14).

There are many today who want to do away with rules, but Jesus condemns lawlessness. Some would say that it was not Kramer’s fault that he failed to change lanes, but really it is. It was his responsibility to know the rules and to follow them. No one can stand before God on that great and final Day and blame someone else for his or her lack of obedience.

As Sven Kramer skated around the track his friends and family watched with heavy hearts. They could see what he could not. They were aware that he was in the wrong lane, but there was not anything they could do about it. Sometimes it seems that way in life. We see family members, friends, and loved ones who are in the wrong lane, maybe even on the wrong track. We feel helpless, because our loved ones are not listening to us as we cry out to them.

There are some differences in the Olympic speed skating race and the Christian’s race. The very moment the Sven Kramer chose to skate down the wrong lane he was disqualified. There is no grace in Olympic speed skating regardless of how graceful the skater himself may be. In the race in which we run God is gracious. If we find ourselves in the wrong lane, on the wrong track, or going the wrong way God allows us to get in the right way. While we are in this life we are given opportunity to get headed in the right direction and to finish the course. Another difference is that there was only one gold medal awarded in the 10,000 meter speed skating event. Paul made a similar observation when he was writing to the Corinthians, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.  And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:24-27). He makes it abundantly clear to Timothy that everyone who finishes the race lawfully (or according to the rules that Jesus has given) is a winner. “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8).

The stakes are much higher for us than a gold medal. Those who failed to win the gold at the Olympics were no doubt disappointed, but those who fail to win the crown of life will be devastated for eternity. Consider again the Hebrew writer’s admonition (Heb. 12:1-2) and run as if your life depends on it, because it really does.


Article by: Richard Bunner