Therefore, 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. 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. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.- Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV
I love the picture painted by this passage. My life is pictured as an event in an athletic contest, specifically a long race. The stands are filled with the saints of Hebrews 11, and many others including my parents, grandparents and others who have already completed the race. They are watching me run the race and cheering me on.
As a long distance runner, I know the impact of the cheering crowds, encouraging you to continue, even when you feel like giving up. It is even better when those cheering and encouraging have already run the race themselves. They know what you are going through. Consider the crowd of saints who have finished their race, and are now cheering you on. Be encouraged by that when the course seems long, the wind is blowing and the rain is falling. Don't give up.
At the finish line I can see Jesus, whose race was so much more challenging than mine. He never gave up, grew discouraged, or became distracted. Instead he continued to the end, finishing his race, and is now enjoying the victor's spoils. If he didn't give up, grow weary or become distracted, then it fills me with encouragement that the race is doable, and that the reward for crossing the finish line makes the race itself worthwhile.
And sometimes, you might see Jesus, not at the finish line, but running along side you. It always inspires me when I see a stronger runner come back to help out and encourage a struggling friend. I have seen a number who have sacrificed their own race to stay with the friend. And many others who have finished and then work the way back through those still running until they find their friend and then finish a second time, this time helping their friend. It is comforting to know that I have Jesus alongside when I need him most.
Hang in there, run your race to the end, and then take your seat with the other finishers, and begin to cheer on the current runners. Or consider running alongside a struggling friend, help them to cross the finish line.