By Your Side
May 5, 2020 by Pastor Kevin Van Wyhe
Mile 20 is where the race really began. Over the past year of training, that 20 mile threshold had been crossed several times in preparation for the big day. The long hours of hitting the trails were all now in the past. The daily routine of pounding the pavement had become a normal part of every day, but today was different. This was not just a practice run, this was the real deal.
The blue in the sky above and the early morning frost on the ground below set the stage for a perfect day to run a marathon. Each runner was filled with excitement and nervousness. Excitement about reaching a goal that they had worked long and hard for. Nervous about having to actually finish the race.
At the sound of the gun, the race was on and each person’s body began to perform the all familiar art of repeatedly putting one foot in front of the other, over and over. The first 10 miles seemed to fly by as most runners were still smiling and feeling quite good. But at mile 20 the race seemed different. At mile 10, conversations were constantly being exchanged and even laughs and signs of joy were frequently being displayed. Ten miles later everything changed, a determined silence settled onto the course.
I remember thinking, I still have 6.2 miles to go and I am really feeling it. I began to now focus on persevering to the next mile marker, not the finish line. Nearing mile 26, my legs were like rubber and my body was in anguish. I had nearly reached my end. All I could do now was to apply sheer determination and focus on putting one foot in front of the other.
The final 2 tenths of a mile took place on a college track. The “track of pain” was how many repeat runners referred to this final oval of the race. As I neared the 26-mile marker at the entrance to the track, my exhausted eyes landed on something beautiful. There ahead of me were the 4 most important people in my life, wildly cheering me on to finish the race. With my mind distracted from the pain, I mustered a smile for my wife and 3 kids.
Then something happened that changed that “track of pain” to a circle of joy. As I passed my family, my six-year-old son, Joshua, ran to my side. Then he said these words I will never forget. “You can do this Dad, you can do this.” With my son at my side for that last 2 tenths of a mile, I was no longer focused on the pain I was feeling, but rather on the joy of having someone who cared for me by my side, encouraging me to finish the race. My son turned that day around by simply being there for me.
Hebrews 12:1-3 reminds us that we are all in a spiritual race. A difficult race that God has set before us. A challenging race that we too must persevere.
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
We shouldn’t expect this Christian journey to be easy, but in verse one we are reminded again that we are not traveling it alone. “Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…” refers to the Heroes of faith that are described in Hebrews 11. People who endured great challenges for their faith and finished the race. It is as if these amazing heroes are by our side today encouraging us to run our own race with perseverance.
When we have others in our corner sharing the road, the challenges we face become less difficult. When we have a shoulder to lean on, the trials of life become more manageable. Whether we find our support in other family members, friends, church members, co-workers or just people God has placed in our path, having someone else cheer us on, makes a huge difference.
In verse 3 we find the ultimate encouragement as our gaze is turned to Christ. He endured the greatest of trials and had no friends to lean on. He suffered alone on our behalf so we didn’t have to. His sacrifice gives us the strength we need to not grow weary or lose heart as we live our lives for Him.
Like my son Joshua, who helped me finish a marathon, how can you be an encourager for others? Who might God be calling you to come alongside of today?
Father, again we are grateful for your son. We are thankful for the price He paid on our behalf. We are also thankful for the many others who have put their hope and trust in you and are now an encouragement to us. Help us to see those around us that are in need of encouragement. Help us to be encouragers and to always be looking for ways to support each other as we run the race you have set before us.
In His Grip,
Kevin Van Wyhe