Every once in a while, I see a jogger and react in a way incomprehensible to many thinking people: I say to myself, "I should start jogging." My unexplainable longing usually doesn't last long enough for me to put on tennis shoes, but on rare occasions I forget how much I hate jogging. I never run far (I am using the verb "run" in the broad, general sense) or fast (it can take several minutes for me to pass a parked car).
The only part of jogging at which I excel is "jogger's face." While runners claim that they enjoy running, the look on most joggers' faces is complete anguish. Even though I don't jog far or fast enough to qualify for genuine anguish, whenever a car or another jogger passes I huff, puff and contort my face as if my heart, lungs and every muscle in my body are about to explode. When they are out of sight, I sit on the curb and rest.
My failures as a jogger led to negative feelings when I first read Hebrews 12:1-3. The author pictures the Christian life as a marathon. The runners are getting ready to run the race called "faith."
The race begins when we first learn of God's grace.
It continues, as we are children wiggling through worship and youth acting up in Sunday school. Sometimes the race seems effortless. We jog along without any trouble. At other times, we trip and wonder if God is present.
William Goldman said, "Anyone can be a marathon runner if you give your life to it."
The key to the race is looking to Jesus.
Some Greek races had a statue at the end of the course. The winner was the first one to reach the statue. That may be the background of the admonition to "fix our eyes on Jesus" (v. 2).
To race after Jesus, we need to get rid of extra weight.
Can you imagine a runner coming to the starting line carrying anything? The writer says, "Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles" (v. 1).
Seeing the crowd in the stands helps.
We don't come to the starting line in an empty stadium. The stands are filled with runners from the past—a cloud of witnesses who have run the race of faith. Chapter 11 is a roll call of the heroes and heroines of scripture: Abraham, Joseph, Moses and Rahab. That crowd is sitting in the heavenly grandstand.
For all their faith, they are not runners who never fell. They are champions because they kept getting up. There are others: St. Francis at the top of the stands in a whirl of birds, Martin Luther shouting as we race by and Lottie Moon standing on her tip toes trying to see over the rail. Our great grandparents in the faith are there to let us know that we can run the race, too.
On your mark. Get set. Go.
Bible Study: Hebrews 12:1-3
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