Monday, June 11, 2018

A Horse Named Justify—and How the Justified Always Win

Drudge Report, Breitbart, and even the lamestream media is writing about this incredible racehorse named “Justify.” Last weekend, this three-year old colt became the thirteenth Triple Crown winner, a rare feat.

Here’s the Wikipedia snippet about the chestnut thoroughbred:

He first attracted attention with an impressive win in his first start on February 18, 2018, then followed up with two more victories, including the Grade I Santa Anita Derby. Justify then won the 2018 Kentucky Derby, the 2018 Preakness Stakes, and the 2018 Belmont Stakes to win the Triple Crown.


Justify is only the second horse to win the Triple Crown with an undefeated record, following Seattle Slew. Justify is descended from Seattle Slew and Secretariat, who also won the Triple Crown. Of the 13 Triple Crown winners Justify is the first who did not race as a two-year old.

I don’t follow horse races, and only when the national media grants them attention do I pay closer attention. Regardless of my interest, horse races inspire people, and they can offer a morale boost to a public desperate for a sense of victory. The film Seabiscuit depicted the “against the odds” account of the eponymous horse and its rider, both considered too small and slight to compete, let alone win. They proved the critics wrong, and the unlikely pair became Triple Crown winners. They provided an entertaining and engaging string of victories for a defeated, down-on-their-luck public during the Great Depression.

From this background, I looked closer at this incredible string of victories for the newly-triumphant young racehorse named Justify. Justify is a descendent of some Triple Crown winners, for example. NPR also reported that he had not started racing until after his second year (he was foaled in 2015), which usually means that he didn’t have a chance in the Kentucky Derby. But he won that race and the other two with it. This horse’s rise from February of this year to today is nothing short of incredible, especially because he hasn’t lost a race yet.

How did this horse have such grace and prowess to surge out so soon?

Perhaps his name has something to do with it. How did Justify get such an interesting name? His sire (father) was named Scat Daddy, and the dam (the mother) was Stage Magic. How did the owners or the trainers get Justify from those names? I still haven’t found the origins of his name, but there is something to that name which may give us a better explanation for his meteoric, unexpected, and unprecedent rise to victory.

Justify means “show or prove to be right or reasonable.” There’s nothing necessarily wrong with a horse coming from relative obscurity to unparalleled victory. It’s certainly not reasonable, since it’s unexpected. Another definition of “justify” may help explain: “to declare or make righteous in the sight of God.”

The second definition is more telling. For Christians, we are justified by faith in Christ. We are taken from death in our trespasses to life and honor, seated in heavenly places with Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-6). Justification, or righteousness as the term appears in the Bible, is an indispensable gift, one which every believer in Christ Jesus receives, but one which not only takes the believer from death to life, but also from losing in death to winning and reigning in life:

“For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:17)

Because of the gift of righteousness by faith, we become heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ Jesus (Romans 8:17). Our Heavenly Father and His Son are champions, and we partake of their glory (1 Peter 4:13).

Because of the gift of righteousness, other promises come true in our lives:

“In righteousness shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee.” (Isaiah 54:14)

When we understand our righteous standing in Christ Jesus, we don’t worry about the attacks and the setbacks in this life. We we may have started out late in the fight or the race, and we may not have the odds on our side.

But none of that matters:

“No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.” (Isaiah 54:17)

With righteousness comes a promise of glory!

“Surely he shall not be moved for ever: the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance.” (Psalm 112:6)

In fact, because of God’s gift of righteousness , we receive a winning crown, too!

“Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8)

The race for the believer in Christ Jesus is not about getting ahead of everyone else, because we have been made hyper-victors in Him (Romans 8:37), but it’s about resting in His power and letting His grace take from worst to first, from lost to found, from least to greatest (cf. Luke 15: 1-31).

Throughout God’s word, justification is tied with victory of all kinds, and especially in cases where victory cannot be attained or assured through our own efforts. With this mind, it comes as no surprise to me that a horse named Justify would have such a sudden, unexpected series of victories—and his wins serve as a reminder for how all of us can win, can reign in life today.

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