This summer, in just a few months, the 2024 Olympic Games will be held in Paris, France.
The very best athletes from over two hundred countries and the four corners of the globe will gather to compete in track and field events, swimming and diving, gymnastics, and cycling. Of course, no one will want to miss the highly-competitive badminton, squash, and cricket. Collectively, the world will tune in to watch over four hundred sports… if curling is a sport!
Imagine it… eight or ten highly trained and talented sprinters, shoulder-to-shoulder in the starting blocks, each wearing the colors of his country. The stadium will erupt with screams and cheers as the gold-medal competitors run like thoroughbreds. The slowest man in the 100-meter-dash will likely cross the finish line in less than ten seconds… that’s flying!
And that’s the scene that the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews was imagining. “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1–2, NKJV).
The “great a cloud of witnesses” are those listed in the Hall of Faith in Hebrew’s eleventh chapter. Abel, who worshipped. Enoch, the man who walked into heaven without tasting death. Noah, who faithfully built the ark. And Abraham, the father of the faithful. These heroically faithful Old Testament patriarchs are imagined in the Olympic stadium.
They look on as “we” run the race. Me and you. The author imagines that his readers are in the stadium of life, running the race of life. Like a coach, “the Author and Finisher of our Faith” reminds the runners to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Take off your army boots. Set aside your backpack. Strip down to your lightweight running gear. Lighten your load. Unburden yourself, “casting all your cares on him, because he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7).
As the competitors in Paris race to victory, they won’t be looking into the stands to wave at their friends. They won’t be looking back to see what’s happening in the high-jump pit. Their eyes will be focused singularly on the finish line. Likewise, we must constantly look to “Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”
At the end of life’s race, Paul could say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. There is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all those who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7–8). God was faithful then, and God will be faithful now! “Those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not become weary, they will walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
What’s the secret to success? “Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, (we must) pursue as (our) goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13–14). Our only hope of victory is to focus on “Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our Faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”