Hebrews 12:1 – 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. (NIV)
The last weekend in August, our family was vacationing in the Okanagan Valley, in British Columbia. We did not know that the gruelling "Ironman Canada" swim-bicycle-run triathlon was being held at Penticton, but because my sister-in-law had come to encourage a friend who was participating, we unexpectedly became involved (I know that the Lord arranged it!). Ironman is a much more strenuous event than anything in the Olympics. As the cyclists passed the first refreshment station on the 112-mile grind over the mountain pass from Osoyoos to Keremeos, we watched as volunteers ran along beside the cyclists, passed them food or bottles of water, Pepsi, or Gatorade, and shouted encouragement, "Way to go!" "Good race!" or "Keep it up!" Some of the cyclists responded, "Thanks for your support!" Later, as we watched the runners coming in after their 26.2-mile marathon, we heard the announcer say, "If this runner speeds up, she can break ten hours. Let's cheer her on! (loud cheers) Yessss! Her time is 9:59:59!" (louder cheers). Encouragement was essential for a strong finish.
The Apostle Paul likens the Christian life to a lifelong race with an eternal goal. One reason why he encourages us not to forsake gathering ourselves together, is the utter importance of the mutual encouragement that occurs when we gather for worship and in small groups to help us run the great race, right to the finish line.
Hebrews 10:24-25 – And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (NIV)
Prayer: Lord God, how easy it is to get caught up in day-to-day struggles and lose sight of our eternal goal. Help us, instead of complaining about the situations we find ourselves in, to give encouragement to those whose great race is even harder than ours. In Jesus' name. Amen.