Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him 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 sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:2-3
I could see the corner and hear the crowd, so I picked up the pace thinking the end was near. A girl I knew passed by on the sidewalk, medal in hand, as she headed to her car after the race. I couldn’t see the finish line, but I knew it was getting close. I knew my husband and kids would be waiting for me. I could picture the snacks and the bottles of water the volunteers would hand me after I’d crossed the finish line. I could almost feel the satisfaction of having finished my first running race. So I gave it my all and left everything I had on that final half-mile or so of the course, even though I was exhausted as all get out. There was a certain joy set before me, so I fixed my focus on the finish and endured the pain of the final few steps.
But there was much more to my race than the joy of the finish. It was the smiles of those kids whose pictures had been seared in my mind. It was their rescue. The knowledge that each step I took in the race that day helped even one of them to know hope and freedom from slavery and dark evils they’d no doubt seen if not experienced themselves. The joy set before me really had little to do with all the excitement and satisfaction of running my first 10k and everything to do with the pure joy of knowing I was helping to liberate children from stuff they shouldn’t even know about, much less have to run from. I endured for them. For the God Who asked me to do it.
Jesus endured much more than a 10k. (I wanna’ write “Duh!” here because well, really…) I mean, God in the flesh walked up a hill after being beaten to a pulp and humiliated like none other, carrying a solid wooden cross beam and literally the weight of the darkness of every one of my sins and yours. He underwent the most unbearable pain any man has ever suffered, and He did it to finish His race. The race He came to run. The one where He finished off death and conquered it with real life. The one where He invaded life as we knew it and overthrew Satan’s empire of darkness and dying and not real living. He ran His race, endured every inch of it, because my freedom and yours gave Him joy.
. . . who for the joy set before him endured the cross . . .
So the writer of Hebrews draws on the race Jesus ran and points us to it. He tells us to fix our eyes on Him
so that (we) will not grow weary and lost heart. (Heb. 12:3b)
See, Jesus Christ Himself knew endurance. Therefore we can learn it too. He knew pain, so we can endure it also. If only we will keep in mind what He has done for us. What He wants to do for those kids. If only we will fix our eyes on Jesus and not lose sight of the hope He holds for the children who are even right now struggling to just stay alive maybe fighting off slave drivers or pimps. If only we will keep fixed focus, we will find strength for those early morning training sessions. If only we will keep Jesus ever before us, we will find courage for the fund-raising.
After I turned the corner at the race that day, I realized I had farther to go than I had thought. But the people on the curb were shouting “You’re almost there!” And runners who’d finished ahead of me cheered as I ran by. They helped me remember the finish. They pointed me to the hope of the end of the race because I couldn’t yet see the finish line. That’s what Jesus does for us. He cheers us on and keeps us going. He knows how far it is to the finish. Heck, He’s the one who mapped it out. And He knows we can finish. That’s why we need to keep our gaze fixed on Him and His purpose for this whole Team Hope thing. For the joy set before us is what He will give us one day as we see brothers and sisters rescued from danger.
Oh Lord, give us such a fixed gaze that nothing keeps us from the joy You have set before us in helping those kids. Amen.