The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing league is the fastest growing spectator sport in America, and in the world. The sport has grown steadily over the years, evolving from a simple racing sport that had its roots in whiskey bootlegging. Yes, bootlegging. The earliest cars were bootlegging cars, hopped up to outrun the law. And that is what a lot of us have been doing all our lives- running from the Law, that is God's Law.
These bootleggers who made a living running from the law, simultaneously gave birth to a legitimate sport- one where they could race their cars against each other, instead of the law. Some even did both. One of the earliest champions was a fellow named Robert "Junior" Johnson, who developed his driving skills on the rural backroads of North Carolina, running from "The Man.". He was a worldclass bootlegger and racer, and he bootlegged whiskey even after he became a NASCAR driver. He was caught, served some time, and eventually received a presidential pardon.
Stockcar racing can be an exciting sport at times, and the cliche is indeed true: people watch the races to see the crashes. Crashes are racing's touchdowns and triple plays, and I am not so sure that there is anything wrong in that. Nobody that I know wants to see people get hurt, and normally they don't. Racing is not afterall a full contact sport, although the sheet metal on the cars might bed to differ...
And I admit, I am a big fan of NASCAR. I love the drama. I love the excitement on Sunday afternoon. In fact, Sunday's are a big day around the Bailey house. After attending my church and hearing a powerful sermon, I can come home with fire in my eyes, sit down and relax and watch a good race and reflect on all the things that need reflecting on, and finish it off with Sunday night's Bible study. While I am watching the cars, Diane is watching her Dallas Cowboys on the other TV. It is a great day!
This screed will be a stab at making an analogy between NASCAR and our Walk. Racing offers a veritable goldmine of metaphors for a crazed Christian writer like me.
Of course, the driver is You. You are the driver- driving your Ford for the Lord. Your mission is simple: drive your car round and around that track and finish the race- preferrably ahead of all the other drivers. Your car owner has high standards, of course he is looking at the bigger picture- he is watching you accumulate points week after week, and he can overlook a mistake or two or three. But make no mistake- he expects you to win that race.
Jesus is your car owner. He owns you outright. He owns the car, the engine, the shop, the car hauler; the entire operation. Owning you, he has a vested interest in your performance. Normally, he is a owner with latitude, but if you do not perform, he will "cut you loose." Jesus does not own all the drivers on the track. Some of them belong to "The Other Guy." And Jesus is a busy man, owning multiple cars and drivers, so He has a lot at stake, and a lot of people to be concerned with- He is not one to mess with. When He tells you to do something, you better do it!
If Jesus is your car owner, then God owns the whole league and in this analogy He owns every stadium. He is Chairman of the Board, CEO, President, Vice-President, Treasurer and Secretary. He signs everyone's check- the officials, the flagman, the cleanup crew, down to the hotdog guy. Although you are property of your car owner, you are subject to Him as well. If you screwup royally off or on the track He can throw you out of His league. Regardless of your performance, you will have your day in His Big Red Truck. He has watched drivers come and go and thus He has an incredible eye, wisdom and governing skills- you won't pull over nothing on Him.
Rounding out the Trinity is the Holy Spirit- your crew chief. Known as the Counselor in the Bible, He is likewise your counselor on the track. He will advise you on every aspect of the race. He knows what you are doing, what the other drivers are doing. He is watching the weather, clocking your lap time, and thinking about what you should be doing next. He is going to try His best to guide you in the right direction. It is imperative that you listen to Him. Sometimes you don't, and often you fall victim to the Wall.
The Wall is Sin. Sin is always right there to the right of you. Sometimes, you get right up next to that wall and you are in a very dangerous position. You risk wrecking your car. You might feel like you can go faster next to the wall, but in general, you are not safe besides it. When you hit it, you will usually hit hard, and it will leave a mark. Everytime. Your car will not drive as good after you hit that wall- you may even have to come into the garage for repairs.
Sin is very dynamic. It is in the other cars around you, even your own. It is the oil that spills from the car in front of you. It is that hotdog wrapper flying around the track, threatening your air intake hole; and it is the storm cloud over your head. Sin is around you, beside you, and under you. In fact, the very track is sin itself. God owns the stadium, but the track represents the World and you are in a race against it. In fact, you are competing against the track every bit as much if not more so than the other drivers. You fail to conquer the track and you will hit that wall. You may not overcome some of the other drivers- some of them simply have better cars than you, and that is just the way that it is, but you can overcome the track. If you listen to your crew chief, and you don't push your car too hard, you can overcome sin- and you better- or else you might be out of the league all together.
Now let's look at some of the other elements of the sport.
You are the driver, the person, or the persona. Your car as a whole is your body. You are at the wheel of your body. You need to protect it. To some degree it can be fixed, but some damge is permanent, and can typically affect your outcome in the race. In this race, you will only get one car. The car is comprised of many parts and subsystems. The fans in the stands are watching our cars, but there are other elements involved which they can not see. The league owner may know us individually, just like the car owner and crew chief do; and the crew chief and owner are paying attention to our subsystems, but everyone else is just watching the car. As Ryan Newman says, "I am not just driving the 12 car- I am the 12 car."
The car is 3500 hundred pounds of metal and more. The sheet metal that goes on the outside is like our spiritual body. It can get damaged just like our physical skin can. When we smack that wall, we can damage our spiritual body as well. Sin leaves a mark. The decisions we make- the times that we give in to sin- come back to haunt us in that Big Red Truck.
When we defile ourselves with sin, we damage that spiritual body. That damage may be immediate, or it can manifest itself later, but none is without effect. This is a sport of milliseconds and millimeters. Every little ding and dent has an effect on our aerodynamics. It is our spiritual body that cuts through the wind. It is our spiritual body that is going to touch that wall first. If we do make a mistake, and the odds are that we will, we can bring our car into the pits and we can put some tape over the dent to help us out aerodynamically. But tape can't cover everything. We really need to keep our heads in the game, and listen to our crew chief, and avoid that WALL!
Our Faith is our gas and rubber. We get a measure of both gas and rubber, and we can periodically replenish our faith through pit stops (going to Church and hearing the Word). But we need to be careful with our faith. If we keep our foot too heavy on the gas, we will lose faith. If we are too rough with the stearing wheel, we can lose faith. Although the people in the stands may be unaware of our tire condition, or the amount of juice, we are aware. The Owner is aware. The Crew Chief is aware. Our gas and rubber may be one of the least appreciated and least visible elements of the car, but without it, we are doomed. We run totally out of either, and we won't finish the race.
Angels are everywhere!!! Angels are the rescue crew and the cleanup crew. Our pit crew is a host of angels. They each have a job to do. They jack us up and change out our tires with careful diligence. The car owner positions several of them around the track to keep an eye on us and report back to Him. When they see something amiss, they radio back to Him, and He will bring us in for a checkout.
Round and round we go. Sooner or later our time runs out, and we get the white flag- one lap to go. In a minute or so we will cross that finish line- that threshold between life and death. Black and white. Light and dark.
That checkered flag is our judgement in this analogy. Life or Death. If we finish, we win. It's not life after death, no, it's life after life. If we don't finish we don't win. When we win, we do a big burnout, typically resulting in a figure eight (the sign of infinity). To finish is to taste victory. Victory Lane is heaven- life eternal.
If you are going too fast in your car now, I suggest you back off the gas a little and save your tires- you may need them later on in the race. How will your car finish? What will your sheet metal look like when the car comes to a stop? Will you stop on this side of the line or that side? What will you have to say for yourself in the meeting in the Big Red Truck?
As a driver, I think you need to build a good relationship with your owner. I suggest you keep in regular touch with your crew chief. Regardless of what the other drivers are doing, it may be time for a pit stop.
Like they say... That's racing!
2 Timothy 2:3-7 "Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs- he wants to please his commanding officer. Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this."
1 Corinthians 15:33-34 "Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character." Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God--I say this to your shame."