Last weekend, a group of friends and I ran in a 5K race with a new local running club. We’ve had the opportunity to get to know some of the people in the running club over the last few weeks. Since this was their first sponsored race, we wanted to support them. (Plus, we enjoy running together.) All of my friends finished the race, and we all had a great time hanging out with running club.
Later, I realized that several of my friends did not run in the best of circumstances. In fact, some people may have chosen not to run if they had been in the same situations.
For example, one couple had their young daughter with them. One of my friends had to run the entire race pushing her in a stroller. But, he did it, and they both had a great time.
Another friend ran a half marathon a week before and was extremely sore. It would have been easy for her to choose not to run this race since she was still recuperating from the earlier and longer run.
This was the very first time one of my friends had run in a 5K. Another friend run a slower pace than normal so they could run together. Both of them ran under less than ideal circumstances.
Finally, one of my other friends has not been sleeping well the last few days. He decided to run anyway, even though he was extremely tired.
As I was thinking about my friends running together under adverse circumstances, I was reminded of this passage in the Book of Hebrews:
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. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (Hebrews 12:1-3 ESV)
As we read through the Book of Hebrews, it’s clear that the audience/readers are facing severe struggles (although, they haven’t been killed because of their faith yet – Hebrews 12:4). In order to continue living faithfully in spite of this adversity, the author exhorts them to “look to Jesus.”
Specifically, he told them to remember the shame and hostility that Jesus faced with joy. Just as Jesus continued his mission in spite of adversity and struggle, the readers should continue their own life of faith in spite of their own troubles.
Obviously, running a race is not the same as living in a manner worthy of the gospel. But, just as my friends chose to run in spite of adversity (or even to run through adversity), we must choose to follow Jesus in spite of any problems or struggles we may face.
Also, just as my friends faced different kinds of obstacles (different from one another and different from the obstacles that they’ve faced before), we will all face different adversities in our own life of faith as well.
Finally, my friends were able to encourage one another to continue in spite of the problems they faced. We also need encouragement from one another to continue following Jesus through the struggles of this life.
I appreciate my friends for offering these living illustrations for me and others!