In Hebrews 12:1-3 Paul says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses: let us lay aside every weight and the sin that 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 set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of God.”
A week ago Suzie and I attended a runner’s banquet. We were there to see my father in law receive a surprise award for his 16 years of support and dedication to a local running club called Checkers. My father in law owns a high end sneaker shop called Runner’s Roost that specializes in fitting and selling footwear to runners. Suzie and I arrived at the banquet early and mingled with the runners. At first I felt out of place, as I am overweight and presently have a beard that is borderline slacker looking. I had on my usual boots and North Face coat. Walking in, a lot of the runners looked at me as if I was attending a self help group, and that I was coming into the light by coming and attempting my first step at overcoming obesity haha. Everyone there was in shape like my wife. My father in law didn’t know we were going to be there and we wanted to surprise him. When he walked in he was surprised to see us! He asked, “what are the two of you doing here?” and he laughed. He asked us why we came to which I said, we’re joining the running club to lose some weight and he laughed as he could see we were joking. As the night progressed I began to enjoy myself a lot. They handed out like 40 awards at the ceremony. It seemed like everyone in the club received an award. One man got an award for best accident at a race. The guy face planted during a race and got all bloody and had pieces of track stuck in his skin. Another man received and award for best Aussie accent, as the guy was from Australia. My father in law was a celebrity there and everyone knew him and his store that has faithfully served this community for years. I was glad to be there for him and a part of this special evening.
As I sat there witnessing all the clapping, cheering and celebrating this passage in Hebrews kept running through my mind, “Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” I thought about Paul and the people he was talking to when he wrote those words… sports fans and athletes. I kept wondering if Paul was an intense runner like one of these folks and it made me laugh to think that he could have been like me, not a runner at all. Maybe Paul was just motivated by all of the positive energy and healthy perseverance of being around athletes and that is why he related running to the Christian life. The Christian life is full of ups and downs, many face planting days but also days when you feel like you’re running with the wind. As a Christ follower, we have this joy set before us, that though we endure many hardships and dark days that we will one day bow humbly before the throne of God. I felt like I was a part of a cool community that night, a group of folks that weren’t concerned with who the best runner was but most concerned with folks being in the race and continuing to persevere. I kept thinking that is what Jesus thinks too. Jesus doesn’t want us to grow weary and lose heart but He wants us to continue on in the race until we cross the finish line. He wants to run with us everyday and for us to throw off the sin and all the stuff that creates excess weight in our lives. If you have been on the sidelines I want to invite you to join the race again, or for the first time to decide to run with Jesus. This is the race I am in and will continue in until I cross the finish line and receive the prize of my salvation seeing Jesus face to face.