The Reason You Must Keep Running
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If you're into college sports, it's always a big day. If you're into professional sports, it's always a big day. Some call it Alumni Day or Old Timers' Day. Whatever you call it, it's the time a lot of those who played on that very same field come back to cheer on the men and women who are today's players. If you're a player and the game is tough, glance up there in the stands. You'll see some people up there who know how you feel, who've played the game you're playing, who've gone against that same opponent, and who are up there right now, screaming their lungs out for you. They just really want you to win!
That picture of the alumni in the stands, rooting for the ones who are wearing the uniform today, is the inspiring picture that God gives us for those times when our game is tough. Hebrews 12:1-2, our word for today from the Word of God, and maybe it's God's personal encouragement note to you today.
"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. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus." The image here is one of an Olympic runner, running his race, encircled by thousands of cheering spectators in the stadium. The cheering crowd here is people who've gone before us who are watching us run the same race they have run successfully before us. And you know they've got to be cheering for you: "Don't give up now, man. Don't drop out. No, don't go off on that detour. Don't let that thing trip you up. Don't drop our legacy, man. Don't let it die with you!"
So who's in this "great cloud of witnesses?" They're God's honored alumni, who have run for Him in previous generations. The previous chapter, Hebrews 11, identifies some of the all-stars who are watching you and me from the stands: Noah, Abraham, Moses, David. And maybe they've been joined by greats like John Wesley, and John Calvin, and D. L. Moody, and those five missionary martyrs like Jim Elliot. Or grandparents, great-grandparents, a mom or dad, who ran their race for Jesus all the way to the finish line, no matter how hard it got.
The previous chapter tells about some heroes of earlier races whose names we don't know but who paid a very high price for the very things you're running for. They're in the stands. They're cheering for you, too - those who "faced flogging" and others, the Bible says, who "were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword...the world was not worthy of them" (Hebrews 11:36-38). We are running our race under the gaze of people who paid with their lives to finish their race for Jesus. So what's that that's keeping you from running? What's tripping you up? What's your reason again for slowing down or giving up? This is a faith that people have sacrificed for, shed their blood for!
The secret of running strong and running all the way to the finish line is still the same as it was when the lions came down the chute at the Coliseum 2,000 years ago - "fixing your eyes on Jesus." Because He didn't quit when it meant spikes in His hands and feet, thorns in His head, a spear in His side, and all hell poured into His soul. So you look up in those stands and you listen to those who finished like heroes. You look up there at the finish line at the One who gave it all for you - and remember that all of them are counting on you to finish what they started. To carry what they refused to drop. And there's Jesus waiting for you at the finish line, waiting to welcome His weary but winning runner home. You can't stop now!