Lately, I have been understanding on a much deeper level the parallels between training as an athlete in sports and training as a spiritual athlete. Have you played a sport? Ran a race? Competed in any way? Can you recall the emotional and physically energy you received during a competition when someone cheered you on? Can you hear it? Even a simple clap, or the ringing of a cowbell help when you are in the heat of a sports competition. But, when someone specifically calls YOUR name, when someone you know or even better yet, when someone you love hollers for you…what does that do? I know for me just seeing Robert’sface and hearing his shouts of encouragement during a gave me instant energy and courage.
In our training as spiritual athletes, God puts us through training sessions and race days. And sometimes, when the training session is difficult or long or when the “race” day is particularly tough, discouragement can set in. We want to slow down our pace, we may want to even quit, we wonder if it will ever get better, we begin to ask why, what’s the point and if it’s worth it. Can you relate?
But, spiritually and athletically is IS worth it. Can you remember crossing the finish line of a difficult race or hearing the buzzer stop at the end of a hard won basketball game? Once it’s over, once the line has been crossed..wasn’t it worth it? I bet you are like me, it WAS worth it. Sometimes, I just cried when I finished racing. Have you ever just cried when the race was over either spiritually or athletically? Yes, finishing the game, crossing the finish line…it IS worth it.
But, as spiritual athletes who is cheering us on? Who is our spiritual athlete example? Well, I hope that, like me you have friends in Christ that cheer you on, mentors that model strong spiritual athleticism, family that encourages your spiritual training and teaches you Godly principles and a church that supports you too. But, sometimes, even that doesn’t feel like enough or sometimes those cheerleaders can disappoint us or not give a “cheer” at the right time…So, what to do then? Let’s see who the Bible tells us is cheering us on and who our spiritual training example is….
Hebrews 12: 1-3 (the Messsage)
12 1-3 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! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!
(emphasis in red is mine)
A listing of some big faith heroes is given in Hebrews chapter 11.
In chapter 12, Paul the writer of Hebrews, tells us that these veterans are cheering us on! Really? I have some favorite heroes in the Bible and I’m sure you do too. If encouragement is what you need right now , think of your favorite heroes on the sidelines of YOUR life cheering you on in your spiritual training. For me, I put Esther, Peter and King David on my cheering team! They all had greater challenges and endured more that I have. They know what I’m going through and how challenging some of God’s training can be and they are on my sidelines telling me, ” Keep going. You’re doing good. Trust God. The finish line is worth it. The next mile will be easier.” Who are your heroes? Will you allow this truth real for you? YES, you are being cheered on by faith heroes that were so loved by God He included them in the Bible. That’s some pretty important people sitting on your sidelines telling you to keep going!!
Now, Jesus. We’ve heard He is our example. Sometimes that just frustrates me because He set the bar pretty darn high and I know in this life, I’ll never reach that height! But, this verse says that Jesus never lost site of of where he was headed – the finish line with God. I think it’s time for me and you to start focusing on and seeing that finishline and to determine to finish strong. Time to start realizing that whereever your finishline is – short term challenge or arrival in heaven – God the Father and Jesus the Savior will be there! They will be there to welcome you, congratulate you and put that medal around your neck.
So, I’m encouraged. I hope you are encouraged. Whatever your current spiritual athlete training looks like right now – easy or hard – press on. Keep going. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Keep your focus on finishing and listen for the cheers from the faith heroes sitting in your sidelines!!!!
Finishing strong is everything. Finishing IS worth it.
Where does Jesus sit now? At the right hand of God. Where will we sit when we finish? In heaven with God, Jesus and those who have finished before us!