As most of you know, I coached high school kids in cross country and track for 13 years. It is a really different type of sport compared to many others, as the athletes see their opponents very frequently and often spend hours upon hours at meets in the same stadium. Even among fierce competitors, there frequently develops a mutual encouragement society. Track teams are pretty large, and most of the athletes spend a bulk of their time in the stands watching others perform. Usually, there are more athletes in the stands than there are simple spectators. The athletes understand each other, because they know from their own experience the labor that has gone into the preparation by those currently competing on the track.
The writer to the Hebrews must have been familiar with such a spectacle. He speaks of those who have gone on to their reward as those who now sit in the stands encouraging the current participants to finish their race well.
HEB 12:1 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. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
I remember back when I was training to compete in my first marathon race, there were a lot of doubts in my mind as to if I could actually do such a thing as run for 26 miles. Over the months of training, I met a great number of people who had completed such an event. Some of them were greatly gifted athletes, but some of them were also pretty regular types of people – like me! Their experiences were helpful, and the fact that they had done it encouraged me more than anything. If they did it, I could do it too!
Life is tough, and it can get pretty nasty sometimes as unexpected events roll over us like wave after wave at the beach. But others have gone before, endured such sufferings and beyond, and finished their race well. I hope that is your goal… to finish well… it is a very doable thing. And throngs of people in the stands are telling you so!
So stay faithful in running this Christian life. And spend time together with the others doing the same, encouraging one another about how doable this thing is.