Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. Hebrews 12:1-2
The physical exercise of running appeals to many for its solitary nature. Unlike other sports, one can easily do it alone. When I run by myself, I can do some mental reflection and prayer, seeking peace and tranquility in the steady rhythm of breath and footsteps. I run my own pace, walk when necessary, sprint when desired. Alone, I can enjoy many running benefits.
Yet I also know the power of a community run. The group gives me encouragement and incentive, pushing me beyond my normal boundaries. I especially appreciate other runners during the long runs of marathon training. The Saturday morning ritual of gathering with others gets me up early. I feel a certain obligation to be ready for the sake of other runners. The group conversation can keep me going when the miles are long or when I struggle with some bad patches. I have discovered that a good running group is essential for my development as a runner.
The writer of Hebrews seems to have that community focus as well. In chapter eleven, the writer highlights a number of Old Testament heroes who demonstrated faith in God: Noah, Abraham, Moses and Rehab. And at the beginning of chapter twelve, the writer describes these deceased heroes as “a cloud of witness,” rooting and cheering us on in our faith race. We do not run alone, the writer makes clear. He does not write, “Let me run with perseverance the race that is set before me.” Rather, “Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” Our faith, though personal, is never in isolation.
I am so thankful for those friends and companions who have pushed me to become a better runner. I am even more thankful for my brothers and sisters in Christ, who push me to become a more faithful follower of Jesus Christ. Together we can finish the race of faith.
Lord Jesus, connect me to your people that I might look to you, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.