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Marathons and Messengers

April 7th, 2009

Focus Text: Proverbs 13: 17 (NLT)

17 An unreliable messenger stumbles into trouble,
      but a reliable messenger brings healing.


Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

As you probably know, I love to run.  It has become a part of my persona and my weekly routine.  For me, running is about health and hobby.  I enjoy setting out on a run and breathing in the outside air.  Even when it’s cold and rainy, bundling up in my cold-weather running gear brings me immense satisfaction.  With my iPod blaring and my cell phone not, my weekly treks are moments of solitude and reflection that I treasure.

But historical legend reveals a story of quite possibly the most famous runner in ancient literature: Phidippides (or Pheidippides or Philippides according to which ancient text you use.)  The historical accuracy of his story is uncertain, but the narrative is fascinating nonetheless and has definitely influenced the running culture of the modern day.  The story goes that the city of Athens faced an imminent battle with Persia.  Phidippides was a trained runner and was sent to Sparta with an urgent request for assistance.  

Sparta told the young man that they could not help Athens because of religious reasons having to do with the current position the moon.  So, Phidippides ran all the way back to Athens with the bad news.  Then, he ran all the way to the battle with the Persians just in time to fight.  Unexpectedly, the Athenians won the battle and who did they choose to carry the message of victory back to Athens?  Yep, you guessed it.

So here’s the skinny: between the run between Athens, Sparta, and the battle, Phidippides had run approximately three-hundred miles in under a week.  Holy cow!  So, when he arrived in Athens, legends say that simply uttered the words, “We have won” and then dropped dead from exhaustion.  

You probably don’t know much about Phidippides, but his faithfulness as a messenger is more familiar to you than you think.  Here’s why: the name of the battle from which he came was the Battle of Marathon. The approximate distance between Marathon and Athens was twenty-six miles.  Our modern “marathons” are commemorations of Phidippides’ heroic run.

Whether the story is true or not, it most definitely demonstrates the influence of a faithful messenger.  “An unreliable messenger stumbles into trouble, but a reliable messenger brings healing.”  You might wonder why Phidippides didn’t just ride a horse.  Most historians think it has to do with the terrain.  With all of the rivers and mountains he had to cross, he thought it more safe to go on foot.  The message was too important to risk.

Think of how his message has “brought healing” to so many who have ran marathons for health and personal fitness.  When we are entrusted with information, we become the carriers of its truth.  It can be a simple message from our spouse, or it can be crucial information from our boss.  Either way, the reliability of the messenger will influence the situation either positively or negatively.

We have been entrusted with most crucial message in all of eternity.  A message that the battle of love has been won.  The way we run our race is imperative because the transferal of the news that lives can be changed and that forgiveness exists is just what our culture needs to hear.  Our message can bring healing to our world!

Jesus was the greatest runner to ever carry the message, giving His own life in the most dramatic of all healing messages delivered.  It cost Him His own life, but we can run the “marathon” of life today because He completed the course before us.  His is our eternal Phidippides: we truly have won.

Keep running today . . . you never know who’s waiting on your life’s message.



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