By Megan Low, Australia
So, if you’ve read my articles before, you’ll know that I don’t really like sports. But the Bible is full of sports analogies. Take Hebrews 12:1-2 for example.
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 trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. —Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLT)
There seems to be many precious lessons we can glean from the world of sports that would enable us to appreciate Scriptures better. The four-minute mile is one. In ancient Greece, they tried to run one mile within four minutes. Some historical records tells us that the Greeks tried to accomplish this by setting wild animals to chase after the runners, hoping that it would make them run faster. Some tried drinking tiger’s milk. Nothing worked. So they decided it was impossible for a human being to run a mile in four minutes. They said: “Our bone structure is wrong. Our lung power is too small.” Many reasons were given as to why it could not be done. Then one day, Roger Bannister proved that it is, in fact, possible. The next year, 300 runners broke the four-minute mile record!
This sports history gives us an idea of what a “huge cloud of witnesses” can do. Those who have run before us encourages us that it is possible to live a life of faith. If you don’t already know, the previous chapter is a detailed yet incomplete list of people who lived by faith in God, so be encouraged!
Some of today’s Olympians will be wearing specially designed aerodynamic gear in hopes that they will run faster. Ancient athletes were smarter and apparently ran naked—they must have all been men. In both cases, they understood a key principle, which the Hebrew writer mentioned, that is to “strip off every weight that slows us down.”
So, how can we, as Christians, strip off the encumbering weights? When our sins and failures threaten to engulf us and swallow us up, we need to remember that it was from these things that Christ died to set us free, and loved us even while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). Learn from your failures, by all means, but don’t let them stop you from growing in Him. Let’s also forsake sinful habits so that we can pursue a God-honouring lifestyle. That, I’ve found, is a most effective way of stripping off encumbering weights in our hearts and minds.
When we think about the call to “run with endurance”, there is no better place to learn how to do so than from marathon runners. From what I’ve gathered, most of them will tell you that their secret is by setting their focus on the end-point. For Christians, the Hebrew writer tells us to set our focus on Jesus Christ in verse 2.
We can take comfort that Jesus has already gone before us. From His example, we learn that the pain, shame and opposition we might have to endure for the sake of His name is nothing compared to the kind of rewards God has in store for us when we remain faithful to Him. Moreover, not only has He completed the race, He is also beside us, cheering us on. There’s a nice short comic called Life Marathon that you might have seen before—one of my favourites—that draws out this illustration particularly well. So, let’s run with endurance by fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith!
This Olympic season provides us with many opportunities to use sports analogies from the Bible to encourage one another. What is one way we can cheer each other on to run the good race of faith? Who would you share this with?