Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish. — Hebrews 12:1-2
In 490 B.C., when the Greeks won a mighty victory over the Persians, one of the victorious soldiers reputedly ran the 25 miles from Marathon to Athens to bring the good news to his compatriots. Many years later, in 1896, the modern Olympic Committee introduced a long distance footrace, which they called the “marathon.” In 1924, the distance of the race was standardized at 26 miles 385 yards. This race has now become the final event of the modern Olympic games—a fitting climax to many athletic achievements. At the end of their grueling race, the competitors circle the track to the cheers of the people in the crowded stands.
The original readers of the New Testament letters were familiar with the ancient Olympic games—the precursors of the modern Olympics. So they had no difficulty getting the message when they read, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
We, too, should have no trouble getting the message! Strict training, suitable clothing, skillful tactics, self-control and significant self-discipline are all critical factors in modern distance running. And the fact that the race is being run before a large viewing audiences adds to the intensity of the event for the competitors.
So the modern believer is exhorted to “run” the life of faith seriously. He is not to enter the race casually, nor to participate in it halfheartedly. He is to run it with intensity and endurance.
The modern distance runner can look back to the feats of such great athletes as the Czech runner Emil Zatopek, who won the 5,000-meter, the 10,000-meter, and the marathon at the 1952 Olympics. In the same way, the modern believer is encouraged to remember the feats of faith of such men as Abraham and Noah, Paul and Stephen, and to be encouraged and challenged by their examples.
Above all, believers are to focus on Jesus, “the Originator and Perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2), who sits at the finishing line. It was He who showed us the way: enduring the pain, steadfastly completing His task, and finally triumphing over the enemy. And it is following Him that we run, under His watchful eye and loving care. It is for Him we compete, and it is to Him that we speed our way through life. He will not award us a physical gold medal, but we can anticipate a glorious welcome at the end of our race. Finishing well and seeing Him will be reward enough!
For further study: Hebrews 12:1-13
Content taken from The One Year Book of Devotions for Men by Stuart Briscoe. Copyright ©2000. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.