In the eight years I've been teaching, I see it every time. About 3/4 of the way through a course session, students will grow weary. One or two may drop out altogether. The adrenaline and new excitement has long worn off and the end isn't yet in sight and doubts creep in, "Can I complete this work? I'm just so tired." So, I often encourage them with the analogy of the runner. Hating to run myself, I still see the metaphor carry powerful implications to persevere.
We love this picture, this idea. The exhausted runner has pushed through and made it through the finishing tape.
But, this time of hitting the end isn't when we need the most encouragement. It's about 1/2 mile back from the tape, when it looks like a thin strip of thread...and we are barely hanging on. Our legs are burning, lungs are screaming, muscles cramp up, and the mouth is so dry you can't even swallow.
In the midst of this agony, someone reaches out with a cup of water, a smile, a cheer, a "you can do this...keep going!"
(photo cred.: http://www.kadena.af.mil/)
"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, fixing our eyes on Jesus." Hebrews 12:1-2a (emphasis mine)
What can we learn from this verse? Much more than I can discern, I'm sure, but the three things that strike me are as follows:
1. You aren't running alone. You were never meant to. We are surrounded by witnesses, both here and now and in eternity (Rev. 6:10). Our Savior has run the race we're enduring (and then some) and He runs alongside us now (Heb. 4:15). The Body of Christ surrounds us and makes us stronger.
2. Holiness empowers our steps. Just as a healthier person who eats right and drinks plenty of water and sleeps a full eight hours understands, we run our best when our bodies are doing what they were meant to do. Nothing tangles our steps faster than potholes and weeds and cumbersome baggage on our backs. God called us to a life of purity, not for our own pride or position, but for His honor and glory (2 Timothy 1:9, Eph. 5:3, Romans 12:1)
3. We run to Jesus. Keeping our eyes on Him and remembering why we are running in the first place helps motivate us through the dry spells of monotonous pound-pound-pound, sole-to-street running. Sometimes we can't see where the path ahead bends and turns. We don't know if the next turn will take us up a hill or down one, but we know what awaits us at the finish line. And we're not running for the Gatorade, cheers, or even the medal. We are running into the arms of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. So, don't give up; He's running with you and He's also awaiting you at the end, ready to say, "Well done." (Matt. 25:21).
Phil. 3:20 "But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,"
2 Cor. 4:17-18 "For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."