Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also 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… (Heb. 12:1-2a)
As I was perusing Facebook on New Year’s Day 2015, I saw a friend of mine pledged to run 3 half marathons that year. I got inspired, and so I made my own resolution: I resolved to run 2 half marathons that year. I know I couldn’t do 3, but I thought I could do two.
Then came the hard part, training. I was in pretty good shape, but I had nowhere near the endurance one needs to run 13.1 miles. I could turn out a pretty good 5k, but I was pretty sure my legs would fall off if I tried to push it much beyond that. So I did some research, talked to some of my family members who run long distances, and decided on a plan.
Eventually, I did run a half marathon, I have the medal to prove it, but it did not come easy. There were tears. There was agony. There were times where I felt like giving up. There were setbacks. There were injuries. But slowly, and surely, I started to run more and more miles. It started to get easier and easier. Then on that Holy Saturday, the day before Easter, I ran my first half marathon (I like to make the joke that as Jesus was going through Hell, so was I). I didn’t finish my resolution, my knees wouldn’t let me, but I learned a lot about myself, and how much I could push my body.
In Hebrews 12, Paul uses a sports metaphor. He talks about us “running with perseverance the race set before us.” He likens life as a long, long race where we are cheered on by the spectators, our ancestors in the faith. We run towards and in the wake of Christ who ran this race and blazed the trail before. But we cannot just jump head first into a long distance race without first training. We wouldn’t make it.
Training is the most important thing one does in preparation. People spend weeks, months, even years training for an event which happens only once. They devote what adds up to days to getting ready. They push their body, their mind, and their spirit to the breaking point so they can grow stronger or faster.
What things do you do to train for running this race with perseverance? How much time do we spend on training ourselves for the Christian life?
The good news is that we don’t train and we don’t run alone. We have each other to turn to. We have those who ran this race before us, that great cloud of witnesses still cheering us on. And we have Christ who, though he pioneered this race, still calls us and beckons us forward.
We are not alone. Thanks be to God.