Last summer I ran the Bix7 in Davenport Iowa. It is a huge race, people come from all over the world to run this seven mile course. It is a difficult course to run because the route is so hilly. The first half mile of the race is straight uphill. Only to be accompanied by a series of ups and down throughout the entire way. Multiplied by the amount of people you are running next to and that the race is run in the heat of July, this course is an accomplishment to finish for every short distance runner.
I started my training a little late for the race and as I started off that morning I was nervous that my preparation hadn't been enough. I ran the first five miles with no difficultly, but as I venture on the sixth mile I hit an incredible upward slope that slowed my pace to a steady walk. I was tired, hot, thirsty and I didn't want to run anymore. I thought about how easy it would have been if I had just ran the two mile race and waited at the finish line for my husband. I knew that I had two miles left to go, but those miles seemed like twenty. It was hard to think of the finish line when all I could see was this gigantic hill in my path and people racing by. Step by step I climbed the hill knowing that I had to get to the top if I was to finish the race.
I rounded the crest of the hill and started the downward descent towards the finish line. The last stretch was lined with people, families and bands, clapping, cheering and playing for the runners. As I passed all of these people my pace increased and my strength returned and I found the power to finish the race. It was the energy of the people cheering for me that encouraged me to lay aside the pain and tiredness that I felt and finish the race I had started. They kept saying "You are almost there, keep running!", "the end is in sight, keep going!" and because of it, I focused and ran the last few paces encouraged by their presence.
As I ran this last stretch, I kept thinking about what the writer of Hebrews said in the twelfth chapter, "Therefore, 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" ( Hebrews 12:1 ). This comes on the very heels of what is known as the Faith Hall of Fame. Great men and women of faith were listed in chapter 11 to encourage and remind us to live by faith. Then the writer goes on to say that now we are surrounded by these great faith pioneers and everyone who has gone before us. They have enveloped us and a are cheering us on to run the race we started. They can see the finish line and they are shouting, "You are almost there, keep running!", "the end is in sight, keep going!".
To run and finish our race sometimes this means we have to strip off the things that hold us back. Sometimes we have to deny what we feel in order to continue moving forward in life. We were called to run a race for Christ and the course is not always easy, but keeping the eternal perspective in view will help you overcome every mountain that stands your way. The writer of Hebrews went onto say, "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. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart" ( Hebrews 12:2-3 ). He gives us the secret to running without hindrances. Look to Jesus who is the author and finisher of our faith. We have to look away from everything that will distract us and keep us running in circles and we have to focus on the finish line, which is Jesus.
Jesus is our joy and our longing, but he is also our example. Imagine what would have happened if he had quite along the way. But the scriptures say that he endured dreadful hostility and harsh opposition and looked forward with joy to the redemptive work he was going to do. We have to keep this in perspective so that we will not lose heart and grown weary along the way. The Amplified Bible puts it this way, "Just think of Him Who endured from sinners such grievous opposition and bitter hostility against Himself [reckon up and consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you may not grow weary or exhausted, losing heart and relaxing and fainting in your minds ( Hebrews 12:3 Amp ). We have to use Jesus as our example of what we can endure so that we will run with perseverance. Let us look forward to the end with joy.
Your race is different than my race. Paul said in I Corinthians, "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever" ( I Corinthians 9:24-25 ). There is a crown at your finish line. Paul is encouraging us to run like the winner of the race. He went onto say, "Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize" ( I Corinthians 9:26-27 ). Paul knew his mission and focus in life and because of it he trained and ran with that end in mind. He disciplined himself to win the race with perseverance. He is encouraging us to do the same, to train, to equip ourselves to run and win our race. And now he is with that great cloud of witnesses surrounding us saying, "You are almost there, keep running!", "the end is in sight, keep going!".
Today we are celebrating the beginning of 2010. It is our New Years, a time for reflection on the past years events and resolutions for the New Year. My theme for 2010 is to run with perseverance. To leave behind everything that holds me back and to look forward with Joy to Jesus. He is my author and finisher and I am his runner with the gold medal in mind. Today, I pray that you understand the race in which you were also called and that you will run with perseverance this race, surrounded on every side with cheering fans! The end is near... keep going, you are almost there!