Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
No one who was in the Olympic stadium in Barcelona on August 3, 1992, will ever forget what they saw. A crowd that entered the stadium expecting the greatest feats of competition left talking about one of the greatest feats of perseverance in sporting history.
Derek Redmond also entered the stadium with great hopes. After two heats of the men’s 400-meters, Derek was becoming a favorite to contend for a medal. He had won both of those heats with decent times, and he certainly looked like Great Britain’s best hope for a medal in the event. Four years earlier, he had to drop out of the Olympics in Seoul, Korea, just seconds before he was due to run because of an Achilles tendon injury. Now, he was just two races away from potential Olympic glory.
The race started well enough. Derek was posting a strong time, but almost midway through the race, he heard a pop, and then felt a searing pain in his right leg. Breaking stride, Derek grabbed the leg and crumpled to the ground – a victim of yet another injury, this time to his hamstring.
At first, Derek thought he still might be able to catch the other runners and qualify. But then reality set in, and he realized that the best he could do would be to finish the race no matter what. Step by step, Derek hobbled toward the finish line, the agony clearly showing on his face. Derek was used to running the entire race in 45 seconds or less, but he could only manage those next 150 meters or so in 40 seconds.
It was then that a man ran onto the track from the crowd and pushed his way past security. He reached Derek’s side and the runner could see that it was his father, Jim. “Derek, it’s me,” he said. “You don’t need to do this.”
Derek replied, “Dad, I want to finish, get me back in the semi-final.”
Putting his arm around his son, Jim said. “OK. We started this thing together and now we’ll finish it together.”
Jim’s next words to his son bring tears to my eyes: “You’re a champion, you’ve got nothing to prove.”
Together, Derek and Jim Redmond crossed the finish line, and the crowd erupted in a standing ovation. Because Derek crossed with assistance, the official result is listed as DNF – Did Not Finish. But everyone who watched that day or who has seen the video since then knows that the truth tells a much different story.
The writer of Hebrews told us that we’re all in a race as Christians, and that the stadiums of Heaven are cheering for us as we run toward our eternal finish line. He told us that there will be difficulties, but that we need to press on in spite of those, striving with every step toward our goal.
Each of us will encounter problems and troubles as we try to live the Christian life. But ours is a race not only worth running, but worth winning. One wonderful thing is that we don’t have to finish first – we just have to finish. Another is that, each step of the way, our Heavenly Father is running with us, encouraging us and assuring us that, “You’re a champion.”
Today, pray that the Lord will give you a fresh wind for the Christian race. Ask Him to help you persevere and endure in spite of any obstacles that block your path.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.