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A blind sprinter and his companion: Running our race in the power of the Spirit

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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A blind sprinter and his companion: Running our race in the power of the Spirit
United States' David Brown, left, with his guide Jerome Avery, center, finishes first to win the gold medal, followed by Brazil's Felipe Gomes, right, in the men's 100-meter T11 athletics event at the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016.

Imagine running one hundred meters in under eleven seconds. Now imagine doing that while being completely blind.

This is David Brown’s story. He is the fastest blind sprinter on the planet. After losing his sight at the age of thirteen, he competed in sports at the Missouri School for the Blind, eventually focusing his energy on track and reaching the Paralympics.

He won gold in the 100-meter race in the Rio de Janeiro Paralympics in 2016. He also won 100-meter titles at the 2015 and 2017 world championships.

A key to his success is his running partner, Jerome Avery. The two are literally tethered together as they sprint down the track. Avery serves as his eyes on the track, sprinting next to him in training and competitions from the starting blocks to the finish line.

Avery is an elite sprinter himself. He competed in the US Olympic trials in 2000 and 2004 but didn’t qualify, then he was invited to assist the US Paralympic team in Athens. He has now worked as a guide runner at the last four Paralympics.

Brown said, “It’s really hard to put into words how much you have to trust somebody when you can’t see something. It’s an individual sport, but you’ve got to be able to depend on somebody else to help.”

Running our race in the power of the Spirit

When I read about this remarkable partnership, I thought immediately about our Partner as we “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). Jesus promised his disciples that when he left them to return to heaven, he would send the “Spirit of truth” who would “guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13).

On the day of Pentecost, this Spirit “filled” and controlled them, enabling them to share the gospel in languages they had never learned (Acts 2:4). He empowered Peter to preach and led three thousand people to faith (vv. 14–41).

He later empowered Peter to proclaim the gospel before the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:8) and enabled Paul to rebuke a magician who was deceiving the people (Acts 13:9–11). He will lead and empower every person who submits to his control and power today. In fact, such submission is essential to living a life God can use and bless, which is why we are commanded to “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).

Our partnership with the Holy Spirit is much like David Brown’s partnership with Jerome Avery. Avery will lead and guide Brown, but Brown must choose to follow. Avery can see what Brown cannot, but Brown must trust Avery’s vision.

Brown has the freedom to run his race on his own, as do we. But this choice will lead to disaster for him and for us.

Are you running in the guidance and power of the Spirit today?