The Four Minute Mile
by Matt Redman
For many years the four-minute mile seemed like a bridge too far for the human body. Many doctors and scientists said it was physically impossible for someone to run a mile in under four minutes. From the years 1931 to 1945 the record for the fastest mile was broken on ten different occasions. However, over the next nine years the record remained unbeaten, standing at a time of 4 minutes and 1.3 seconds. The prevalent thinking was that nobody could break through this time barrier and run a mile in under four minutes.
On the sixth of May, 1954, a twenty-five-year-old medical student named Roger Bannister completely obliterated the prevalent thinking. Competing in Oxford, England, he passed the finishing line in a time of 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds. But here’s the fascinating thing—it didn’t take long for others to do the same. Within forty-six days an Australian athlete named John Landy had also broken the four-minute barrier, taking an astonishing one and a half seconds off Bannister’s already groundbreaking time. It seems the four-minute challenge was just as much a mental barrier as it was a physical one. To date, well over a thousand people have recorded under-four-minute mile runs.
In much the same way, our spiritual heroes from the Bible and from history can become our “Roger Bannisters.” They help banish the idea of the impossible and encourage us that in spiritual terms we can also become “four-minute milers.”
We must take on the mind-set of Caleb in the Old Testament. In Numbers 13, we find him brimming with faith and optimism while his peers are completely paralyzed by negativity and doubt. Sent on ahead to explore the land of Canaan, which God promised them, all twelve men came back fearful of the large fortified cities and their current inhabitants. Only Caleb brought a faith-filled perspective and silenced them all, declaring:
“We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” (Num. 13:30)
Despite Caleb’s confident report, fear spread throughout the camp, and the people’s hearts melted with fear (Josh. 14:8). As a result not one of the doubters ever reached the land flowing with milk and honey. Caleb, however, kept walking in the promise:
“But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.” (Num. 14:24)
After many obstacles and battles along the way, Caleb at eighty-five years old, received the fullness of the promise. He came to enjoy the land he’d looked upon with eyes of faith all those years before.
We can take so many lessons from this story and let them adapt our outlook regarding the promises and purposes standing before us. Caleb’s faith was not a blind faith—he operated in obedience to the voice of God, seeing the same obstacles that his fellow explorers had seen but clinging to the words God had spoken: “The land… which I am giving to the Israelites” (Num. 13:2).
Caleb took into account the various barriers to achieving the goal, but those barriers did not rock his confidence in God. Caleb’s confidence in God’s promise brought much glory to God and much favor into Caleb’s own life. Sometimes in life we cannot see a way through an obstacle to the fulfillment of our vision—but if God has spoken, we need never shrink back. We worship the God who makes a way where there seems to be no way.
For Caleb, note how the fullness of God’s promise did not unfold immediately. He faced years of endurance and obedience and the same will be true for our own lives. At times we will face stress and struggle, and we may lose patience. These factors do not mean God has exited the building. We must hold on to hope, never reduce the dreams He placed within us, and let the promises of God echo around our hearts and minds as we wait for the fullness of all that has been ordained.
The story of Caleb tells us this: God does not like being underestimated.
When we stay within our comfort zone and fail to trust Him for the big things, it’s dishonoring to God and disadvantageous to us. But when we trust God against the odds and act upon the promises of God, He will gain much glory, and we will not be left unsatisfied.
This article was adapted from Mirror Ball, © 2011 by Matt Redman. Published by David C. Cook. Used by permission. All rights reserved.