There were 128 runners in the field for the cross country race at the 1993 NCAA Division II Track and Field Championships. As they set out on the 6.2 mile run, they were following a course that had been marked for them by the race officials. Toward the end of the course, one of the runners in the middle of the group realized something was wrong. Mike Delcavo of Western State College in Colorado saw that the main pack had missed the turn. “I was waving for them to follow me and yelling ‘This is the right way,’” he told an interviewer after the race.
Delcavo was right—but only four other runners followed him. The rest continued on the shortcut, which allowed them to run a shorter distance and finish the race sooner. In a widely-criticized decision, race officials allowed the abbreviated route to stand as the “official course” and Delcavo officially finished 123rd.
The world does not always reward staying on track—literally or figuratively. But the path we follow is important to God. One day, those of us who have already trusted Christ for our salvation will appear before the Lord for an evaluation of our service. Our entrance to Heaven is sure—that was settled when we received Christ. But rewards—or the loss of them—for how we spent our lives are not so sure. When we stand before the Lord, no shortcuts will be recognized, and only those who have run the race by His guidebook will be honored.