“Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses. . .”

Hebrews 12:1a

In the Race of Faith, we never run alone.

That’s really what the anonymous author of Hebrews is trying to say to his readers (and us) in today’s Manna.  Most likely, they were Jewish-Christians undergoing severe persecution and being tempted to recant their faith for the sake of survival.  But, he wanted to remind them that the same God Who sustained the saints in the past is the same One Who’ll sustain us now.

In reality, the picture he’s painting here is that of an Olympic stadium where the stands are filled with cheering fans.  Every event is exhilarating and the fans show due respect and adulation by thunderous applause and rousing cheers.

Even now, in our mind’s eye, we can envision the scene. . .the photo finishes. . .these well-trained athletes’ bodies, soaked with perspiration, glistening in the sunlight. . .the victors being crowned with olive wreaths.

Yet, suddenly the crowd grows quiet as the marathon runners enter the stadium one-by-one.  They stand up and cheer as the victor crosses the finish line—and continue to do so as other endurance runners finish their course.

But, word comes to them that one runner is having a difficult time.

He was predicted to finish near the top; but, dehydration and exhaustion have taken their toll on him.  Doctors are worried that he might even perish from heat stroke.

So, minute-by-minute they’re given an update on his condition.

“He’s three miles out,” the announcer says.  Then, it’s two miles.  One mile.  And, one-half mile.

“He’s now entering the stadium, ladies and gentleman,” the announcer excitedly says.

And, there—there at the far end of the stadium—a solitary runner. . .wobbling in his gait. . . struggling to stay upright and place one foot in front of the other. . .emerges into view.

The crowd knows that no one can touch him or he’ll be disqualified.  But, with inward hope and free-flowing tears they stand with respect and slowly begin to clap.  Soon, the applause engulfs the stadium.  And, just as quickly the crowd begins to cheer.  The athlete’s dad even jumps out of the stands, runs down to the track and begins shouting encouragement to his son.

“Only a quarter of a mile to go,” his father says, with furrowed brow and tearstained face.

“You can do it,” shouts an onlooker in the front row as he stumbles past.

“You’re almost there,” cries another with outstretched arms pointing to the sky.

And, slowly—ever so painfully slowly—the suffering runner edges closer and closer to the finish line.  50 yards to go.  Then, 40.  Then, 30.  And, finally with every ounce of strength he can muster, he crosses the finish line, falling into the waiting arms of his father.  Such is the picture of “so great a cloud of witnesses,” Pilgrim.  So, keep running. . . patiently. . .and faithfully. . .knowing you’re not alone.  The Finish Line’s in sight.  Hallelujah!!