SUNDAY MORNING, THE WORLD WAS GREETED WITH THE NEWS that Sir Roger Bannister, a world-class neurologist who also happened to be the first person to run a mile in under four minutes, passed away Saturday in Oxford, England. Reflecting on his life and legacy, one learns that he freely admitted that he valued much more his professional accomplishments as a doctor than his feat of a mile in under four minutes.

When it came time to announce the winner and the time of the race, track announcer and Guinness Book of World Records co-founder Norris McWhirter (who later admitted he strung it out to add to the moment) provided the results as follows:

Ladies and gentlemen, here is the result of event nine, the one mile: first, number forty one, R. G. Bannister, Amateur Athletic Association and formerly of Exeter and Merton Colleges, Oxford, with a time which is a new meeting and track record, and which—subject to ratification—will be a new English Native, British National, All-Comers, European, British Empire and World Record. The time was three…

The rest of the announcement was drowned out by the crowd noise.

I have seen the announcement portrayed in at least one documentary about the event, and I can only imagine what it must have been like to be there.

Lord Sebastian Coe, himself a world-record holder in the one mile in the early 1980’s, has stated that the enormity of the accomplishment struck him when he and Sir Bannister sat together and compared training regimens – and Coe saw that Bannister’s work in a week or so was equivalent to about a day-and-a-half of Coe’s. It is truly remarkable to look at how the goal was the same (fastest in the one mile) and how differently one generation does things than another in pursuit of the same goal.

As I saw the footage again yesterday, and the look of pure effort on Sir Bannister’s face in the above picture, all I could think about was how Sir Bannister gave it everything he had to achieve his goal. He was so spent that his friends had to hold him up as he began to collapse across the finish line.

Given that we are in the season of Lent, I could not help but to be reminded that you and I are involved in a similar task – giving everything we have, with nothing held back, to push ourselves into the desired result – the sheer, total, absolute, and unwavering confidence of basking in the sure and certain hope of reconciliation and redemption by the grace of God through the work of Christ our Lord.

Christianity is not easy. It takes vigilance. It takes dedication. It takes effort that we may not realize we have deep within ourselves. It takes patience. It looks different to different generations because the world in which we live is ever-changing (the Apostle Paul reminds us to be in the world, but not of the world.)

And yet, like the young medical student in 1954, the sheer joy of fulfilling our goal makes every bit of sacrifice worth it.

Grace and Peace,