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. 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. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin. (Hebrews 12:1–4 NLT)
In Matthew 25:1–13, Jesus tells a parable of ten bridesmaids waiting for the arrival of the bridegroom. All ten have lamps at the ready, as it is late and they do not know when he will arrive, so they must be prepared in case his arrival is in the middle of the night. And so it ends up being. But five of the bridesmaids did not plan for such a late arrival, and they ran out of oil for their lamps. Jesus tells this story to remind us to be faithful in our waiting for his eventual return.
The author of Hebrews uses different imagery, but it’s the same story. We are told in Hebrews 12:1 to “strip off every weight that slows us down” and to “run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Both Jesus and the author of Hebrews are telling us we are to be faithful to the very end. Faithfulness and endurance go hand in hand. It is not enough to simply be faithful for a period of time. A runner cannot say they’ve run a marathon if they only ran 13.1 miles, or even 24.5 miles; it is only after crossing the finish line at mile 26.2 that they can say they have completed a marathon.
This requires preparation and training. Even seasoned runners will train for months before a marathon to get their bodies in the physical shape it needs to be for the intensity of running 26.2 miles in under 7 hours, and still not all of them will succeed. If we want to succeed in the race God has set before us, this life of faith, we, too, must be prepared to train and run with endurance.
Thankfully, unlike a typical marathon, we do not run alone or strive for first place by outpacing everyone else. Our race is run in community. We are to build each other up, provide support to one another, and run this race together. The author of Hebrews uses communal language; in just two verses, the words “we” and “us” are used eight different times. This race is not to be run alone; it is meant to be run in community, together with brothers and sisters beside us so when one person lacks strength in the moment, the others can come alongside them, propping them up until they regain their feet.
How are you training for this race? And who are you training with; who is your community?