They’re cheering us on

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It’s been said that the front pages of newspapers catalogue humanity’s failures, while the back pages—the sports pages—tell us about humanity’s achievements. Over the next several weeks our newspapers and television screens will continue to burst with incredible achievements as Olympic and Paralympic athletes push their bodies to the limits of human capability and endurance. 

Interestingly, some of us who evince little interest in sport at any other time have become overnight experts on the finer points of gymnastics, weightlifting or the pole vault. The spectacle of the world’s finest athletes pitting their skills against one another, the clock and the record books; the human drama of nail-biting wins and heartbreaking losses, has entranced us.

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

In New Testament times, Greek-style Olympic games were already a centuries-old tradition and a rich source of imagery for the Bible writers. In his first letter to the church at Corinth, Paul directed attention to the strict training regime elite athletes choose, urging his readers to “run the race” of the Christian life in such a way as to win the prize of eternity. Similarly, the letter to Hebrew believers uses the vivid metaphor of nude footraces: “. . . 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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2a). 

A crowd far bigger than this year’s Olympic audience is following our progress from the cosmic grandstand—“a great cloud of witnesses”—cherubim, seraphim, all kinds of heavenly beings. Although, with their otherworldly eyes they see our poor spiritual condition and the worldly entanglements that are slowing us down, they’re still watching, breathless—groaning when we trip, cheering wildly when we’re back on track.

And, of course, we’re not running the race alone. The unseen performance-enhancing power of the Holy Spirit is energising us, His voice urging us on—Come on, we can do it. One more step, just one more step . . .

Kent Kingston is assistant editor of RECORD.