Friday, February 1, 2008

The Crowd of Witnesses

“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

The writer of Hebrews penned these words just after describing the faith of numerous Old Testament heroes. The many men and women who have completed their time on earth still stand as examples to us all of living for something beyond ourselves. What is striking is that now that their journey is over, they continue to function as an encouragement to those of us who are still in the race.

A young talented athlete named Derek Redmond entered the 1992 Olympic Summer Games in Barcelona with hope in his heart. Four years earlier at the previous Olympics, Derek was forced to withdraw from the 400 meter race 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 they rounded the backstretch until he suddenly heard a pop in his hamstring muscle. His leg collapsed, and he fell to the track. Tears streaming down his face, he quickly realized that his dreams of an Olympic medal were gone. As medical personnel rushed to put him on a stretcher, 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 what Derek was attempting to do, they rose in disbelief. Slowly, they began to cheer. The cheer quickly turned into a deafening roar. Tears streamed down faces as they 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 in 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? Because they have already crossed the finish line. And they know that it is worth it all. The writer tells us, "All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance . . . They desired a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them" (11:13-17). The witnesses of Hebrews 11 had run their own race. They had persevered. And when their lives were over, they found it was worth it all. So 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 go down the track one step (or stumble) at a time. And our Heavenly Father is by our side, supporting us, enabling us, with love in His eyes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Julie! It's Jaimie from New hope and I wanted to encourage you in your writing. I found this entry very upl;ifting and I look forward to reading back a ways whne Cameron doesn't sport a 104 fever.