Running for an hour seemed like a break compared with the rigors of life at home with a baby and toddler. So after the birth of my second son, I decided to do something I had never done before. I joined a run club.
How wonderful that we are not alone in this race.
Race day was always inspiring. Hundreds of sets of feet pounding on the hard pavement—everyone pushing to their limits and beyond. By about two miles, I began to feel tired, but the crowd kept me going.
I vividly remember finishing my first race. Trying desperately not to trip over my rubber legs, my lungs were burning and my side cramping, and I didn't think I was going to be able to finish. At this pivotal moment, I heard something. It was a crowd cheering. Those who had finished first were standing on the sidelines cheering the rest of us on.
"You can do it!" "You're almost there!"
And an amazing thing happened to those of us still finishing the race . . . our feet started picking up the pace. Feet that were nearly limping moments earlier were suddenly sprinting the last 100 yards to the finish line!
When the author of Hebrews compares the Christian persevering in faith to a runner in a race, I vividly remember the feeling of coming to the finish line.
Hebrews 12:1–2 says:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
The Cheering Section
While we do not audibly hear encouragement from the saints that have gone before us, I am reminded that there is no jealousy in heaven. We all want the same thing, namely, to give God glory.
And how wonderful that we are not alone in this race. Masses of fellow runners, past and present, remind me of my heritage. God's people are characterized by faith and courage in the face of great difficulty, and when I’m tempted to quit, their voices unite to remind me why I’m running.
The God Who Inspires Faith
Of course, the reason that faithful Christians encourage us is not because they themselves are so courageous. It is because the God they worship is the kind of God that inspires courageous faith. Brothers and sisters in Christ testify en masse that God is better than ease and comfort. A breeze of persecution cannot compare with the hurricane of God’s power. A read through Hebrews 11—the "hall of faith" as it is sometimes called—is enough to encourage even the most despondent Christian that Christ is worth the blood, sweat, and tears. Those who have already finished the race inspire me to pick up my pace and finish the race. Their faith in God encourages mine.
Looking to Jesus
In the Christian life, we are especially exhorted to look to Christ, not only because of His perfect example through the most difficult trial that any human has ever faced, but also because He is "the founder and perfecter of our faith." He is the unique God-man that makes provision for us to be able to finish the race. I love how John Calvin puts it in his commentary on Hebrews:
And Christ also is not only the umpire, but also extends his hand to us, and supplies us with strength and energy; in short, he prepares and fits us to enter on our course, and by his power leads us on to the end of the race.
What a Savior we have, who would not only make a way of salvation for us at great cost to Himself, but would also empower us to finish the race. He lived a perfectly holy human life for us and also empowers us to grow in holiness in our own lives.
The Christian life is a race like no other. The pull of sin is strong, and you can't keep running merely on sheer determination. It’s too hard. But when our energy is spent, we continue running, because Christ empowers us to finish the race.
So when I feel the rubber legs of "weight and sin" clinging to me and my feet start tripping, I remember those who have gone before me; I remember that my Savior has provided and will continue to provide for me, and I remember that when I reach the finish line I will see His face.
What are some testimonies that have encouraged you to persevere in the race?