With the Olympics fast approaching, it's a great time to think about what the Bible says about 'running the race' of life. The writer to the Hebrews urges us to do three things:
Athletes go to extraordinary lengths to streamline themselves in order to save tiny fractions of a second. Runners and swimmers shave and wax their limbs and torso to reduce drag, and wear specially-designed clothing for the same purpose. (Maybe you remember Cathy Freeman running to 400m gold in Sydney with an 'all over' suit, or perhaps you've tried swimming in baggy clothes!) Followers of Jesus are challenged to do something spiritually similar in throwing off 'everything that hinders'. If only we were all as dedicated as Olympic athletes in doing this.
Good distance runners don't start like sprinters and then run out of breath. They run in such a way that they they have energy left for the finishing straight. Wise people know that life is more like a marathon than a sprint, so it's no surprise that the scriptures emphasise perseverance. When we're faced with a challenge, it's sometimes tempting to shrug our shoulders and give up. But Jesus was a finisher and we should be too.
Jesus is the heart of all Christian faith and we're called to fix our eyes on Him. I find myself thinking of the 1924 Olympics in Paris as depicted in the movie 'Chariots of Fire'. As the 100m final is about to begin and Harold Abrahams waits for the gun, he blocks out distractions and the screen darkens except for his lane, and he fixes his eyes on the finishing tape. We can learn from his single-minded focus on what he was aiming at, and of course it led to gold.
As I finish, I'd like to think about the word "Therefore", which starts chapter 12. It points back to chapter 11 and the "cloud of witnesses" made up of the heroes of faith. At the Olympics, athletes are spurred on by the crowd to amazing achievements. Christians can draw on an even greater crowd and an even greater glory. In a world filled with bad news, that's the greatest news of all.