Hebrews 12: 1-2 "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."
To set up these verses you really need to read Hebrews chapter 11. The chapter is full of people who had faith and were used by God. Chapter 11 ends with the statement, "And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised . . ." Chapter 12 starts with beautiful imagery of those previously listed acting as witness to a great race.
Tomorrow I am running a half-marathon. I wanted to run the whole, but didn't have time to train for it. I'm not very fast, but I love running long distances. I love the solitude of the long run, pushing through the discomfort, and enduring to the end. For me it is a deeply spiritual experience. That is not to say I transcend into some other state or "feel" really emotional, rather my experience helps me comprehend and meditate on spiritual things particularly Hebrews 12:1-2.
The great cloud of witness: Tomorrow there will be crowds of family and friends cheering. People will be cheering harder for their specific loved ones, but I've stood as a spectator. The crowd becomes one as they are cheering for all those who are striving to finish. Those who have walked the Christian faith have inspired us to go on. We can look to men and women of faith and know that they are worshiping God and cheering us to do the same.
Laying aside every weight: Usually when I go out for a long run I bring along a water bottle and/or some Gatorade, but bringing these to the race would be unnecessary. I trust the race planners will make sure there is hydration stations along the route. Some items might be downright wrong to bring, but most would just be unnecessary. In my life, the sins that plague me the most aren't the really shockingly bad ones. They are sins of worrying about inconsequential things that keep me from living a life that is full of God. They are worrying about what others think of me more than considering that God loves me.
Run with endurance the race that is set before us: A marathon (or a half-marathon) is not a sprint. If you run too fast in the beginning you can cramp up and suffer later on. You train at a sustainable pace then settle in for the long run. Walking the Christian life isn't about doing amazing things every Sunday then living apart from God for the rest of the week. It's not about doing great things occasionally then ignoring God the rest of the time. Walking a faithful Christian walk takes endurance.
Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God: Tomorrow, I'm going to trust the race organizers. I trust they have measured correctly. I trust they have set up the hydration stations. I trust I will be safe. They know the course because they set it up. They originated it. They've traveled it. When I'm discouraged by the early morning, the sore legs, and the cold, I think of the finish of the race. Detroit gives out great medals. I get the bragging rights to say that I've ran the race. I finish the race not for the fun during the race (although it is fun), I finish the race for the joy at the end. Jesus isn't asking us to run a race he's unfamiliar with. He planned the path he's asked me to travel. He designed it specifically with me in mind. He didn't have an easy time when he was here. He left the glory of heaven to come to earth to die for our sin. He walked many a lonely road, but he didn't do it for suffering's sake. He did it because he knew the joy that was to be set before him. He knew that his death would reconcile man and God and that he would be back in heaven with his Father.
Tomorrow's event will end for me after I've run 13.1 miles. The other race I'm part of will end when God calls me home. My goal is to run both with endurance.
"A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one."