FUSING FAITH & SPORT TOGETHER

A WORD FROM PAUL KOBYLARZ, GP EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

I’d like to share a story about a very ordinary man, who made an unordinary impact in the world of sports. You’ve probably never heard of Roger Bannister. He was a medical student at Oxford, born in 1929. He was intrigued by a Swedish runner by the name of Gunder Haag, who was one of the fastest men in the world running the English mile (same distance as the American mile).  

 

As an academic and medical student, Banister was curious why it was impossible for Gunder Haag, or any of the best runners of his era, to break a 4 minute mile. He began researching. He spoke with doctors, trainers and coaches. Basically they all had the same answer:  that it was physically impossible. It was too much trauma for the human body. Bannister disagreed, and he was determined to prove them wrong. He soon realized that the only way to prove his theory was to break the 4 minute mile himself. But how could a medical student, with little to no running experience, beat the fastest times of the fastest runners and Olympians of that era? He did the only thing he could do. He began to run. Soon he was good enough to begin competing. At the age of 23, with very little training behind him, he had already qualified for the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Finland. He set a record in the 1500 meters, but finished fourth. This however strengthened his resolve to be the first 4 minute miler. He began going public with his quest to do so. Media scoffed at him. Colleagues laughed at him. He felt pressures and distractions all around him. But he never lost faith or sight of his goal.


Just two years later in 1954, Bannister publicly called for a race to be set at the Iffley Road Track in Oxford, in order to accomplish and prove this lofty goal. With the media and the whole world watching, he decided to pace himself behind two of the fastest runners in the world at the time (Christ Chataway and Christ Brasher), which would put him in striking distance of breaking the 4 minute mile. On the last stretch just before the finish line, Bannister streaked past the two pacers, and when the announcer declared "The time was 3 minutes…" the cheers of the crowd drowned out Bannister’s exact time, which was 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds. He had broken this historic record with minimal training, while practicing as a junior doctor. He went on to become a distinguished neurologist and Master of Pembroke College, Oxford, before retiring in 1993. He also went on to make significant contributions to academic medicine through research into the responses of the nervous system, which he himself considered to be his greatest accomplishment.


After Bannister broke the record, someone asked Gunder Haag why, after all his years of training, he was never able to break the 4 minute mile. He responded by saying that he had read a book, saying that it was physically impossible. Bannister never read that book. He didn’t accept what the general public and media believed to be true. He believed, had faith, and was convicted by what was not seen, or believed by the norm.


What’s ironic is that it took all of history to that point to break the 4 minute mile. But it only took 46 days for the next person to break it, and it was broken several more times within that same year. It’s amazing how a changed life through faith and conviction can have an impact on so many people.


Jesus Christ was a record breaker. He said and did things that no human has ever done. He’s healed the sick. He’s fed multitudes of people. He's created the greatest following and movement throughout the history of mankind because his teachings are unlike any others. Then he backed this up by the greatest miracle that history has ever known or witnessed, His resurrection. We celebrate this as Easter. While other religious leaders have died and decayed, Jesus resurrected. While Jesus was tempted and persecuted like any other human (showing He is a human just like us), He never fell, made a mistake, or sinned, showing that He was also God (Hebrews 4:15). The New Testament’s authors confirm eye-witnesses that saw Jesus after His resurrection. He was the only religious leader that claimed to be God, and backed it up with this miracle, setting Him apart from any other human, and any other religion. He built a bridge, and is the Connector between heaven and earth; between God and man. Yet many of us choose to still not believe. We choose our own way, or try to earn our way into heaven, when Jesus has already earned it for us by willingly suffering for and taking our wrongdoings on His shoulders. Jesus shows us that it is not what we do to earn our way, but what He did when He gave his life willingly so that we could remain in fellowship with our Father despite our own wrongdoings (sin). Jesus did this for us. He suffered for us, out of love. Yet we sometimes blame him for bad things that happen, and we sometimes curse Him because of our own sufferings. When we get really angry, we even use His name in vain. We fail to realize that He became one with suffering so that we could be free from it eternally, and spend eternity with our Father, when we acknowledge Him as the Lord and Savior of our lives.


Please don't miss out on this wonderful message of hope, restoration, and salvation (eternal fellowship with God) because of reading the wrong "self help" book, or listening to the norm or the media telling us otherwise. God promises to convict us of the truth when we open our hearts to Him (Matthew 7:7-8). Be a game changer. Be a leader. Your decision can not only restore you, but can also lead you and others into a personal relationship with the One who has broken every human record and defied all odds in this life and the next. Is that not worth researching? Is that not an eternal movement worthy of being a part of? God promises to run this race with you, through His Son, Jesus. “I run the race, to win the prize, for which God is calling me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).


Please contact The Community Church of Greenwood should you have any questions regarding the Christian Faith.


Paul