En Gedi: Finding rest in the wilderness!

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Who Wins the Race?

Posted by Scott on February 21, 2008

by Ray Stedman

READ: Ecclesiastes 9:11-12

I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all (Ecclesiastes 9:11).

Many of us have had experiences that confirm the truth of this verse. All our carefully laid plans have fallen apart; all our dreams that we had what it took to succeed in some particular area of life crumbled, and we could not understand why. We had to learn, as this text says, “the race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong.” That is true, even in sports. In the early part of this century Jim Thorpe, the famous Native American athlete, won many gold medals at the Olympic games. He stood before the King of Sweden and was publicly acknowledged as the greatest athlete of his time. Yet all those medals and honors had to be given back when it was learned that as a boy he had played professional baseball for five dollars a season, which rendered him no longer an amateur.

It is not always the strong, the mighty, the able, and the gifted that win in politics. We have seen candidates whom everybody thought a cinch to win public office defeated, unable to fulfill their dreams. “The battle [is not always] to the strong,” and this principle rings true even for the awards and prizes of the world. The Nobel Prize was given to a little woman in India, Mother Teresa, who ministered fully to the needs of the poor around her. Even in Hollywood the “battle” is not always won by those with the “strength” of typical movie glitz and glamour; in 1982, the Academy Award for Best Picture went to the movie Chariots of Fire, the story of Eric Liddell, a Christian Olympic runner who later became a missionary to China. The Searcher clearly tells us that natural gifts of speed, strength, and intellect are never enough to guarantee ultimate triumph.

Other factors really make the difference. “Time and chance happen to them all.” What does he mean by that? We often say, “You have to be the right person, at the right place, at the right time.” In other words, there are elements of circumstance that have to fall together even before someone with great abilities can accomplish his or her goals. What the Searcher is saying, of course, is that life is not in our control. The illusion that the secular media presses upon us all the time is that we can handle our life by our choices. “It’s your life! You can live it the way you please.” But the Searcher says it cannot be done that way. “Time and chance happen to them all.” Just when you think you have something under control, it can all fall apart. Disasters come when we least expect them: “As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare” (Ecclesiastes 9:12). Everything can fall apart. Every one of us has had some experience of that.

Lord, thank You for this reminder that I am not in control; that I do not control the outcome of events, but You do.

-Scott Bailey 2008

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