Since we have such a huge crowd of men of faith watching us from the grandstands, let us strip off anything that slows us down or holds us back, and especially those sins that wrap themselves so tightly around our feet and trip us up; and let us run with patience the particular race that God has set before us. Hebrews 12:1 (The Bible)

A major sporting event, a huge stadium packed with tens of thousands of people, cheering the athletes on. A metaphor of our life, where we are the athletes, being encouraged by the past generations of men and women of faith who have gone before.

A more descriptive translation puts it this way:

Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit!

“Don’t give up!”
“Don’t be discouraged!”
“Keep going!”
“Pick yourself up!”
“You can make it!”
“Keep your eyes on the finishing line!”
“Don’t give up!

While these heavenly spectators can cheer us on, unfortunately that is all they can do. They have run their race and have entered into eternity. They can no longer interact with the living. They can celebrate our race, but they can’t intervene.

Fast forward a couple of thousand years…

Minutes before the 400m final at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, British athlete (and crowd favorite) Derek Redmond had to withdraw due to an injury. It is hard to imagine the weight of his disappointment. He had trained for the event for years (literally).

Redmond got his second (and last) chance to win a medal four years later at the Barcelona Olympics. Half way into the race and looking like he would win gold, Redmond tore his hamstring. In that split-second not only did his hamstring tore, but his heart broke.

“Not again. Dear God, not again.”

In bitter anguish, barely able to walk and almost collapsing in grief, Redmond determined to finish the race.  He would come last, but he would cross the finish line.

A man suddenly broke through track security and came alongside Redmond. It was his father.  The father encouraged and supported his son to finish the race.

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When we stumble, when we trip, when we are too weary to continue, our Heavenly Father runs to our side.

Crossing the finish line Derek received a standing ovation from a crowd of over 65,000. More applause than the gold medal winner.

We are surrounded by a huge crowd of men of faith cheering us on, but they must stay in the grandstands.

When we stumble, when we trip, when we are too weary to continue, our Heavenly Father runs to our side.

How can I say this with confidence? Because this is the character of God as told in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, by Jesus…

So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. Luke 15:20 (The Bible)

This is the God we serve, and He is a good, good Father.

(View Derek Redmond’s race below.)