Hours after an Ethiopian runner had won, Akhwari limped into the Olympic stadium. Only a few thousand spectators were left, but they began to cheer the courageous Tanzanian. Bloodied, bruised and bandaged he grimaced with every step as he completed the final lap of the race.
Later, a reporter asked Akhwari, “Why did you continue the race after you were so badly injured?”
He replied, “My country did not send me 7,000 miles to begin a race; they sent me to finish the race.”
Using the metaphor of running, the Hebrew writer urged, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb 12:1).
The Christian life is spiritual marathon. Not a sprint. It requires a life time of dedication. Devotion. And doggedness. It’s not always easy. Convenient. Or popular. But the true disciple of Jesus is not deterred. Dismayed. Or distracted.
There are several things we learn from this great verse that will help us keep on keeping on.
(1) Look at the winners that witness Your struggle.
The word “therefore” refers back to the people of faith in chapter 11. It is often suggested that this assembly of men and women are now in heaven watching us as we run. Cheering us on. Like spectators in a stadium. While that may be so. it seems there is something even more significant.
The word witness in the Greek is akin to the English word martyr. This heavenly host of heroes gave up everything to obey God. Their personal convenience. Their homes. And even their lives. They bear witness to us through the Word that it pays to serve God. To follow Him. And to be faithful regardless of the consequences.
(2) Lay aside the weight that hinders your progress.
Runners wear light shoes and clothing that does not impede their ability to run. Athletes used to wear training weights to help them prepare for events. But during the competition they would be laid aside.
What weight should we remove so we can effectively run the race? Everything that slows us down. They might not be bad things, but things that hinder us from running. Could it be relationships? A time consuming hobby? A demanding profession? A recreational activity?
Often the choice is not between something good and bad. But between the better and the best.
(3) Let go of sins that are holding you back.
You can’t run the Christian race with the weight of sin suppressing your progress. In the context some have suggested the specific sin in the writer’s mind was unbelief. But it could be any sin.
What’s preventing you from running your best? A negative attitude? A prideful spirit? Lustful thoughts? Greed? Laziness?
Let it go. Give it up. And get going!
(4) Learn to endure every obstacle.
Endurance is an essential ingredient to success in any endeavor. Business. Sports. Education. And most importantly living the Christian life. It is something that is acquired. Developed. And refined. It is a learned behavior.
A runner must endure aches. Pains. Strains. A dedicated runner persists in hot weather. Cold weather. Rainy weather. When he feels good. Or bad. Or just blah! He runs! He runs with a goal in view. With purpose. Passion. And perseverance.
God did not call us just to begin the Christian race. But to finish. Finish strong. Finish well. And finish faithfully.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman