“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterward. Now he is seated in the place of highest honor beside God’s throne in heaven. 3 Think about all he endured when sinful people did such terrible things to him, so that you don’t become weary and give up.” (Hebrews 12:1-3 NLT) 
Imagine that you are in middle school in a city where the high school has had a number of champion cross country runners. You love sports and read the sports pages all the time so you know all about what they have done in the past. You graduate to high school and there in the trophy cabinets you see all the photos of these people and their awards which they have won through the years. One day in physical education class the cross country coach comes to you and says he wants you to be on his team. You never dreamed of running cross country but the coach keeps urging you to run. You see the testimony of those who ran before you so you decide to run.
This is what I think the great crowd of witnesses is that Hebrews mentions. We can turn almost anywhere in the bible and find someone who showed great faith. The eleventh chapter of Hebrews has a long list of people of faith. All of them were not perfect but kept on after they fell. Other members of the great cloud are the many Christians we can read about in biographies. Some are past members of the church we go to or maybe some of our relatives. Some of you may be a witness to faith to others.
If you belong to Jesus Christ you are in a race. I consider the race to be more of a cross country race than one on a track. Life is full of ups and downs and curves. WE who are in this race are here because of Jesus Christ. AS we are running this race we can see in our minds many types of footsteps ahead of us. These are the footsteps of the Christians who went before us. More important is one set of footsteps, that of Jesus himself. He ran this race. He was fully human and fully divine. He experienced everything that we experience. He even experienced death. He knows everything you are going through.
If you look beside you, you will also see Jesus there. He is right there with you no matter where you are in the race. If you have fallen or gotten off track he is there to help you get back into the race.
We can also see Jesus at the finish line. He is standing there with his arms open wide to welcome us when we get to heaven. Jesus suffered all that he did because he knew that he would end up at the right hand of god. WE can endure and persevere because we know that Jesus is with us and is also waiting for us.
Back in Greece the runners used to practice running while carrying weights on their back. They had to take these off before the race or they would be slowed down. There are things that can weigh us down in our race also. These can be things like doubt and fear. They can also be good things that keep us from a relationship with Jesus like family, work, hobbies, etc. We may need to get rid of some of those weights to continue on the race.
The early runners did not wear any clothes. You could imagine trying to run in one of those long robes like they wore. The writer of Hebrews relates this to sin that besets us. So many Christians have a pet sin that keeps tripping them up. We have to take these sins off by the power of the Holy spirit to continue in the race.
In a race you need to keep looking straight ahead. If you look to the side, you are going to run in that direction. If you are running in a cross country race and start looking at a squirrel in a tree you may even run into something and knock yourself down. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Don’t be looking at other things that might tempt you to get off course.
“Therefore strengthen your tired hands and weakened knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but healed instead.” (Hebrews 12:12-13 HCSB)
In our race some bad things may happen. God may discipline us for the wrong things we have done but not everything bad that happens is of god’s doing. Whatever happens, we need to learn from it. We are not to let these things keep us down. Get back in the race.
When you see someone else in the race who has fallen, do not kick them when they are down. Go to them and help them up. Give them whatever they need so they can get back in the race. We who belong to Jesus Christ are in this race together. All who reach the finish line are winners.
You may be near the starting line, in the middle of the race or near the end but wherever you are, continue to run the race.
By Dean W. Masters
firstname.lastname@example.org Owner of the Masters List: http://shaned.net/mailman/listinfo/masterslist_shaned.net
Unedited redistribution approved
 Holy Bible : New Living Translation. 1997. Tyndale House: Wheaton, Ill.