Have you ever watched the Boston Marathon or the New York Marathon on television? As the runners follow the designated course, people on the sidelines hand them cold drinks and yell words of encouragement to them. The runners appreciate the onlookers' physical and emotional support. However, there is another crowd of cheering onlookers that the runners cannot see: the millions of people watching them from their homes. Those watching the runners on television are no less real than the supporters on the sidelines. Since the runners cannot see or hear their supporters at home, they have to accept by faith the fact that millions of people are watching them and wishing them well.
Recently I was reading Hebrews 12:1.
"Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us" (NIV).
As believers, we are all running the race that God has chosen for us--a race that will last until we leave earth. The Scripture passage says that we are "surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses." This "great cloud" is composed of two groups: our fellow Christians, who often cheer and support us as they also run their race, and those who have already finished their course and cheer us on from heaven. Just as the marathon runners cannot see or hear those in the television audience, we cannot see the saints in heaven, but they are no less real.
Knowing that so many are wishing us well and wanting us to succeed encourages us to throw off life's worries, avoid anything that causes us to lose focus, and eliminate anything that slows us down or distracts us from running our race.
We do not choose our course; God chooses it. Therefore, we cannot compare ourselves with anyone else or desire the course that God has marked out for another Christian. As Jesus told Peter when Peter asked about God's plan for John, "'What is that to you? You must follow me'" (John 21:22, NIV).
How do we maintain our focus for this lifelong race?
Hebrews 12:2 supplies the answer. "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (NIV).
When we focus on our Savior, He strengthens our faith, encourages our hearts, and sustains our souls throughout our journey. He ran the course that God had planned for Him, and He will enable us to run the course that God has planned for us.
Someday we will meet our fellow believers who have been cheering us on from heaven. Meanwhile, we have the assurance that the One who gave His life for us intended that we finish strong. So let us persevere, no matter the difficulties and challenges we face, because we know that our Savior will enable us to complete our course in victory.
© by Howard W. Stevens