by Julie Zine Coleman
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” Hebrews 12:1, 2
A young talented athlete named Derek Redmond entered the 1992 Olympic Summer Games in Barcelona with hope in his heart. Four years earlier, Derek was forced to withdraw from the previous Olympics when he sustained an Achilles tendon injury just ten minutes before the starting gun. Now, after five surgeries and grueling hard work, Derek was ready to race again. His father stood in the stands, heart thumping, watching his beloved son take his mark.
As the semi-final round runners took off, Derek pulled to the front of the pack. Things were looking good as he rounded the backstretch—until he suddenly felt a pop in his hamstring muscle. His leg collapsed underneath him, and he fell to the track. In agony, tears streaming down his face, Derek instantly understood that his dreams of an Olympic medal were over. Medical personnel rushed to put him on a stretcher, but Derek waved them away. He lifted himself to his feet. He was going to finish the race.
The other runners had long crossed the finish line. When the crowd began to realize Derek was back on his feet, hopping around the track, they rose in disbelief and slowly began to cheer. The cheer quickly turned into a deafening roar. Tears flowed as the crowd witnessed Derek’s pain and determination to finish the race. 65,000 fans were on their feet, screaming their encouragements to the young athlete hopping the final 175 meters to the finish line.
Derek’s father could stand it no longer. Bursting through the crowd and security personnel, he leaped over the railing and ran down the track toward his son. He put his arms around him and told Derek, “I’m here, son. We’ll finish this race together.” As they made their way toward the finish line, arm in arm, there was not a dry eye in the stands. Crying, clapping, cheering, the 65,000 witnesses urged the pair toward their goal. Derek crossed the finish line on his own, his father by his side, to the delight of the frenzied crowd.
We, too, are running a race. The writer of Hebrews tells us that a cloud of witnesses surrounds us. I like to think they are cheering us on. Why would they do so? The witnesses of Hebrews 11 ran their own race. They have already crossed the finish line. And when their lives on earth were over, they found it was worth it all.
Now they cheer us on to our own finish line. Keep going! Don’t give up! You won’t believe what is waiting for you on the other side.
With every step, the finish line and its rewards is that much closer for those who walk with the Lord. We move down the track one step, limp, or stumble at a time. And our Heavenly Father is by our side, supporting, enabling us, with love in His eyes.
About the author: Julie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Her award-winning book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Women, was published in 2013 by Thomas Nelson. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.
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Join the conversation: Are you limping your way to the finish line? In light of the encouragement we have available to us, how can you finish well? What can you do to encourage others in the race?