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, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12: 1-2.
I recently watched a video of a cross-country race a few years ago—the crowd’s favorite to win got off to a good start. However, at the 2.5-mile mark, she felt ill while in third place, pushing for second among the 169 runners. “I was going to make my move,” she said, “but my legs just gave out for some reason. I was confused, and I started to slow down.” Her coach, who was waiting at the finish line, became concerned when she was not amongst the top three to cross the finish line.
He started walking down the track and found her half a mile from the finish line; he said she was running slowly; everyone was whizzing past her, and she seemed disoriented. He said that as he stared at her in disbelief, her eyes caught his, and even though her body appeared to be out of the race, the determined look in her eyes said, “I’m not quitting.”
With two yards to the finish line, she collapsed. The medical team rushed to her side. She would have been disqualified from the race if they had touched her, so they spoke to her from the sidelines. “Do you want to finish? The official asked. She nodded yes, and to the crowd’s amazement, she did the unthinkable; she started to crawl toward the finish line. The crowd stood on their feet and began to cheer, and as they cheered, she kept crawling and crawling until she crossed the finish line, where the medical team immediately swooped her away for medical attention.
As I watched the video, I thought of our spiritual races and the scripture in Galatians 5:7 “Ye did run well; who did hinder you that you should not obey the truth?” Through the years, I have seen some great people serving God and running their races well. Then something happened; they took their eyes off the goal, got off track, and became casualties of the ministry. That is not the kind of finish God wants for us. He wants us to finish strong.
The cheering crowd of spectators undoubtedly pushed the runner to keep crawling toward the finish line. People were still whizzing past her, but her eyes were on the finish line. She knew that to qualify as a finisher; she needed to make it to the finish line. She lost the opportunity to stand on the podium and receive a medal. However, her name is mentioned in the list of those who finished and not as one who started and, because of circumstances, did not finish.
Lucky for us, in our spiritual race, we all get a medal, whether we arrive first or last- the important thing is to cross the finish line. You might have started with a good pace, heading to the finish line, but then life happened, and you fell behind. The enemy’s lies will tell you you are so far behind that you should not keep trying. You need to dismiss that voice and listen to the roar from the cloud of witnesses saying, “Keep going; you can do it.” In that crowd is Samson, who fell out of the race and almost didn’t get to the finish line because of disobedience and lust. Thankfully, when he found himself in the Philistine prison, God was right there with him- he never leaves us or forsake us. The Psalmist David said in Psalm 139:7-8 “Where can I go from your presence and where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to heaven, you are there; If I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
Samson’s hair grew again, and as his strength returned, he called on God to remember him and avenge him for losing his eyes at the hands of the Philistines. He “crawled” to the finish line that day as he claimed his most significant victory against the Philistines.
The prodigal son may be another front-runner in the cheering crowd. His actions and attitudes had taken him out of the race, and he was so far gone that even his friends who had initially encouraged him to “stop running” were no longer around. However, like the coach who realized something was amiss when he did not see his runner crossing the finish line at a particular time, his father looked daily for him. When he saw him in the distance, he ran to meet him and allowed him to cross the finish line.
Let’s pause and think about where we are in our races and if we might have stopped running for some reason. Be encouraged and get back in the race because the race is not for the swift but for those who will endure.
— Martin Luther King Jr. said, “If you can’t fly, then run; if you can’t run, then walk; if you can’t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”
You are not alone, and a crowd of witnesses is cheering you on. Remember, you can do everything through Christ, who strengthens you. You might have slowed down or even been crawling. It doesn’t matter where you are in the race- keep running.