I hereby declare the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth: I once ran a marathon race and completed it!!! It sounds like boasting but if the apostle Paul could....perhaps I can? I'm not really boasting; in truth what I can recall makes me feel quite humble. In particular its what happened as the end of the race was in view.
I was about to enter the stadium and complete two laps of the track to finish the race when all sorts of questions came flooding in to my mind. My whole body was weary and my legs felt as if they had one ton weights attached to them. "What if, so near to the end of the race, I gave in to my feelings and just stopped there and then?" "What if I pulled up and pretended to have an injury? That way I could at least get some sympathy and.....who knows?"
The finishing line seemed to be getting further away rather than nearer but, as I entered the stadium, an amazing thing took place. My legs no longer seemed tired and heavy and my body was filled with a new sense of purpose and determination. Whether or not I had the will to go on was no longer an issue. The truth was I actually began to run a little faster that I had for the last couple of miles.
What happened was simple. The crowd around the stadium began to clap and shout words of encouragement. The effect was amazing. For a few moments I actually wondered if I was winning (the mind is very powerful!!!) Some of the competitors who had run the race in much faster time stayed behind to cheer those of us who had taken longer to complete the course.
All around the last two laps of the track the encouragement continued and, though there were a few of us on the track, it seemed as though all the encouragement was for me. Even though I was thoroughly tired as I went to collect my medal there was a new lightness in my steps. I had completed the race, the prize was won and now I could go home. It had all been worthwhile.
That set me thinking. The Bible tells us that we all have a race set before us (it's called life) and that we need to lay aside anything that might be an hinderance so that we might run it with endurance for it is those who endure to the end who will receive the reward (Matthew 10:22 & 24:13) That reminds me that I actually 'put off' nine pounds in weight through running the marathon. There were times, during the race, when the run had been quite easy and effortless; when everything was going to plan. However, there were other times when it was very hard to keep going and it was at those times that there was a need for grit and determination.
Does that sound like a bit of your race of life? You may be running well. If so that's great but there will be times when you are hurting, in pain and aching that makes you feel discouraged and downhearted. Life is like that. It's a marathon not a sprint so keep on keeping on; endure the pain, bear with the tiredness that you feel because every step brings you closer to the end of the race. So watch out for the encouragement that we all need and let it fuel your determination to continue to the end. Don't give in!!
The truth is that there are times when we all feel the strain of the effort we put in to our lives that makes it hard to bear (there were plenty who dropped out of the marathon race that I ran) It's at such a time as that when you need to be aware of the crowd of witnesses that are encouraging and urging you on from Heaven as you run the race before you (Hebrews 12:1-2)
They are the ones who have already won their race and have received their reward. It's not a medal like the one I received from my efforts in completing the marathon. It's a reward that is undefiled and unfading. It's a crown of righteousness just like the one that's already waiting to be presented to you at the end of your race. Keep on keeping on and be encouraged by the cheers of those who have already completed the race set before them. They have gone home and the truth is that for them it had all been worthwhile otherwise they would not be encouraging you. Now there's a thought.
Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.