During the Olympics is there one race I look forward to most, the 100m relay. The reason why, is because this a team race, unlike most of the other events. In the relay it is not about the individual, it is all about the team. Each member understanding, encouraging, and running for one another.
However the most important item in the race is not the people running it but the baton each team carries. When I watch the 100m, I know individually they are fast, I also know they could probably run quicker without the baton, but the whole point of the race is who can get the baton round the track in the fastest time.
Athletes who participate in this event will say the hardest thing to do is to pass the baton on, they will spend many hours just practising how to pass it on. There are a number things that need to be done for a successful transfer of the baton. The timing has to be right, there has to be a willingness on one participate to let go of the baton and cheer his team mate on. There has to be a willingness also to take the baton, which is never an easy thing to do. The race can won or lost on how the baton is passed from one participate to the other.
The interesting thing is that dropping the baton in the 100m relay does not disqualify the team from the race. The athlete who dropped the baton can pick it up again and then continue in the race.
There are times in life when we come to that point in the race where we must pass the baton on. From one leader to another leader the baton is passed on, from generation to generation the baton is passed on. It’s at that stage in life when we feel the baton being passed on, we need to encourage those involved, to keep carrying the baton.
When we look at God’s word we see times when the baton was passed on. Paul the apostle was sitting in a prison cell, probably feeling very lonely, aware that he probably would not have long to live. Paul had every reason to feel sorry for himself, but he didn’t. Paul’s main concern was that the baton he had carried throughout his ministry would continue. Paul begins to reach out to Timothy, he encourages Timothy to stir up the gift that is in him, he passes the baton of spiritual leadership unto him. Paul knew what it was like to carry the baton and because of that he told Timothy to be strengthened by grace which is found in Jesus.
You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
(2 Timothy 2:1-2 ESV)
In the Old Testament we read of another occasion when the baton was passed on. Elijah was instructed by the Lord to go and anoint his successor Elisha to the place of prophet in his place. He cast his cloak upon Elisha and from that time on Elisha assisted and served under Elijah. When the time was right Elijah was ready to pass the baton on and Elisha was prepared to pick it up. After Elijah was taken up in a chariot of fire, Elisha stood with the waters of the Jordan separating him from one side to the other. On the other side were an interested party of people watching what was unfolding before them. Maybe they asked themselves the question, ‘what is Elisha going to do now?’ Elisha simply picked up the mantle of Elijah struck the waters and they parted. When Elisha got to the other side, the school of prophets said “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” And they came to meet him and bowed to the ground before him. (2 Kings 2:15 ESV) They knew the baton had been passed on.
Down through the centuries the work of God has gone on, it has gone on because men and women have been willing to pass the baton on and to pick it up. There may have been times when we have dropped it, that does not disqualify us, what does disqualify us, is if we don’t pick it back up. We may never run in the Olympics 100m relay, but we are running in the Kingdom relay. Encourage on another to pick up the baton and make a difference for the Kingdom.