OpinionsThe ForerunnerConsider Christ

Consider Christ


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1Therefore, 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, 2fixing 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. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. – Hebrews 12: 1-3

Almost 43 years ago, October of 1968, Summer Olympics, Mexico – – – a group of spectators were left inside the Olympic Stadium of Mexico to see the last finishers of the Olympic marathon. About an hour earlier, a man from Ethiopia, Mamo Wolde, had already finished first place. It was already getting dark but the crowd waited for a few more runners to enter the stadium for their final lap. As people slowly made their way out of the stadium, loud sounds of sirens and police whistles were heard from the marathon gate into the stadium.

One last and final runner made his way onto the track to complete the grueling twenty-six-mile race. It was John Stephen Akhwari from Tanzania. He was running with his leg heavily bandaged and bleeding. He had fallen and got seriously injured during the race. The crowd rose in wild excitement until he reached the finish line. As he hobbled away after the race, he was asked why he continued running even if he had no chance of winning the medal. John Stephen said, “My country did not send me to Mexico City to start the race,” he answered. “They sent me to finish the race.” There were actually 74 competitors. There were 57 who finished the race. He was the last.

It is not good to run aimlessly. It is not good to have no purpose, no dream, no direction or no destination. This is why we have been called by Christ to a personal relationship with him – – – to pull us out of our aimless living and to accept Christ’s invitation to become part of the glorious and honorable race of faith.

This race is spiritual but very real and tangible in every way. It is a race that we run not just before a crowd of spectators, but more importantly before the very eyes of the Lord. Like any kind of race, it is long and difficult. Living by faith in a world that has lost sight of God is never a walk in the park. To pursue a sincere and genuine relationship with Christ requires a kind of strength that is not of this world – – – a strength that only the Lord can provide.

The race of faith can be painful and very frustrating. Jesus himself said that following him calls that we take up his cross daily – – – to drink the cup of suffering – – – to love others as ourselves – – – and to walk carefully and skillfully along a path that is tight and very narrow. And so for we who do not understand this race and what it truly requires, we end up with serious identity issues. We would love the Lord but not enough to change our lives for him. We would fear the Lord but not as much as we would fear public opinion. We will serve the Lord, but only when it is convenient on our end. This kind of running is pointless, farce and will not get us anywhere.

The Greeks had a race in their Olympic games that was unique. The winner was not the runner who finished first. The winner was the runner who finished with his torch still lit. Hebrews 11 gives us a long list of people who have endured. It starts with Abel and it ends with Samuel and the prophets. But the author is careful to remind us that the most worthy example of endurance is Jesus Christ himself, the author and finisher of our faith.

Medical experts, historians and archaeologists have examined in detail the execution that Jesus Christ voluntarily endured. All agree that he suffered one of the most grueling and painful forms of capital punishment ever devised by man. The night before the execution, his disciples reported seeing Jesus in “agony” on the Mount of Olives. So great was the stress that tiny blood vessels were rupturing in his sweat glands and emitting as great red drops that fell to the ground. Immediately after his arrest, Jesus was tortured by the Jews. A few hours later, it was the turn of the Romans to torture him. The beatings done by Roman soldiers were very brutal and were designed to be painful to the extreme. Jesus was holding on to dear life. The entire weight of humanity’s sin fell upon his flesh. Satan was waiting for just one thought of rebellion from Jesus – – -just one word of bitterness from the lips of the Lord. But he heard none. Jesus was determined to complete his task – – – he knew from the very beginning that he was born to die. And so when the time came to breathe his last, he held up his heart before the Father – – -committed his soul to him and said, “It is done.” Jesus completed his task unto the end. The strength that caused him to endure is not of this world. The good news is that, in faith and by faith – – – this strength is ours.

Do you feel like giving up? Is the race getting too difficult? Are you weary from all the running? Be of good courage! Consider Christ! Make certain that your gaze is fixed upon him – – – the Author and Finisher of our faith. Endure to the end. Expect every help you would need as you call on Christ in faith. Entrust your every fear to the One who alone is faithful and true. Experience victory that is beyond you ever imagined. Enable others to find their strength in Christ as you yourself continue to act justly, love mercy and walk humble with God. Amen!

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