The Greek Games were a vibrant piece of the Roman world. Cities had stadiums, and stadiums were filled with spectators cheering the chariots and the runners, the fighters and the tossers of javelins. The writer of Hebrews lifts this familiar Olympic imagery to heavenly heights, "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" (Hebrews 12:1-2). The spectators, the cloud of witnesses, include the titans of faith from the previous chapter, Abel and Noah and Abraham and Moses and the others. They have run their races, inspiring our efforts now.
But I hate running. When Debbie turned 40, she suddenly thought a marathon was a good idea. I hate running, but I love my wife, so we bought a book, The Non-Runner's Marathon Trainer, and did what it said. A 16-week training guide to run 26.2 miles, but before you could even begin, you had to run 3 miles, and I couldn't run 3 miles. I couldn't run around the block. Took me a month to get to the point where I could start training.
During the next 16 weeks, you work up to 18 mile runs, but the week before the marathon, your body needs to rest. The book says to take it easy, just run 3 miles. Run 3 miles? Piece of cake! "For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it" (Hebrews 12:11).
Lord God, You began a work in me that You promise to complete. Do what it takes. I'm not saying I will like it, but I want it. There is this joy in front of me, and I will endure whatever it takes to reach it.
Right now it seems like a lot of work to live rightly. Someday, it will come naturally. God, I will continue to throw off whatever is holding me back, and keep my eyes on Your Son Jesus Christ. He is my goal. I want to look like Him.