Just before I left the bay area to go into the ministry in Oregon, I was with my aunt and we were going to go see Auntie May Carroll, who was in an apartment and was old and sick and being taken care of. We went over to see her, not knowing that she died en route. When we got there, my two nieces that were taking care of her told us Auntie May was dead. The coroners were slow in getting there, so my niece said, “Let’s open her Bible. Maybe she can’t talk to us, but maybe she can speak to us from her Bible.” Maybe by something she had marked or underlined. One of them started going through her Bible, and out fell a newspaper clipping. It was yellow with age. The headline was, “Don’t Drop the Baton.” It told about the 1948 Olympics and a relay race that was being run. As always, the Americans were favored, but for some reason the Italian team had strong runners that year, and when the first runner took off, he gave the Italians the lead. And the second runner held the lead. The third runner increased the lead with each stride. Then he handed off to the anchor runner, and he dropped the baton and the race was lost.
The baton is that 17″ cylinder they hand to each other. Spiritually speaking, the baton is faith. “The righteousness of God is from faith to faith.” Faith is handed to another. When Jesus came into the world, He brought into the world the baton of faith and committed it to faithful men who passed it onto others. We don’t know what happened in history since that time, but we found in our experience and in our day that the baton of faith is still in the world, and I believe God is, and will help under any circumstance. Our responsibility now is not only to hang onto it carefully and firmly, but it is our privilege to be able to pass it on to other people, to commit it unto faithful men and women.
Some of you who are young in school and haven’t served God very long, and you don’t know God very well, and you feel like you are weak and barely toddling along in faith, remember there is no one else even taking a step in it. Under no circumstance, even though you are young, don’t drop the baton. Those of you out there, probably the majority, who are in your middle years, trying to keep body and soul together, and your family, and you have many cares, and you have business and lots of work to do and many distractions, and you’re probably tired more than you aren’t tired, don’t drop the baton. What about your children? Then there are those of you who are old, and you’re running out of time, and it’s just an effort to put one foot in front of the other and it takes a lot of energy to even read the Bible, let alone come to a meeting, and sometimes you can’t, and the finish line isn’t very far away, don’t drop the baton.
Uncle Willie told me one time, “Johnny, I’m 91 years old, and when I walk down the street of a big city, the devil is still telling me to turn into this place or that place, and ruin my life and testimony.” He was old and he was tired, and we are thankful that he didn’t drop the baton. When a faithful person finishes this life, particularly the old, it is such a wonderful encouragement to us that are younger, and to those that are younger than us, to see that it can be done.
If we hold fast the profession of our faith, it will help us believe to the saving of the soul. Call to remembrance the former days when you suffered, and God delivered you. God will not keep you from being destroyed by one enemy to have you destroyed by another enemy. Don’t cast away your confidence, no matter what anybody says, no matter what anybody does, no matter what the world comes to, don’t cast away your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. And we would say to you all, above everything else, above everything else, don’t drop the baton.