Ethiopia’s Abebe Bikila bought new running shoes when he arrived in Rome for the 1960 Olympic Games, but he found them uncomfortable and decided to run the marathon without them. His barefoot marathon run made history. He claimed the gold with a time of 2:15:16, breaking the previous world record. When asked how he was able to run the 26.2-mile distance with no shoes, Bikila said, “I wanted the whole world to know that my country, Ethiopia, has always won with determination and heroism.”
We may never win an Olympic medal, but all Christians are called to run the journey of faith, following our Savior. “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out before us” (Heb. 12:1).
Many of us wish we could run our spiritual race with the determination of Bikila, pressing on mile after mile. The author of Hebrews reminds us that we do have a cheering crowd, encouraging us to persevere: Noah, who built an ark on dry land to save his family (11:7); Abraham, who packed up his home and traveled to an unknown destination (11:8); Rahab, who risked her own life to shelter spies in her home (11:31).
Scripture tells us that running the race of faith means we refuse to be distracted by our present circumstances, instead looking to our destination: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (11:1). Faith changes the way we live, the decisions we make, and the goals we strive toward.
Faith enables us to push through and overcome our difficulties. No matter what obstacles we face, we place our faith in Jesus who has run this race before 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” (12:2).
And running with faith is not a sprint but a long-distance, lifelong marathon of a run. Day after day, week after week, even year after year, we are called to faithfully listen, learn, love, serve, and obey.
The finish line is approaching. Our reward is drawing near. Jesus, our Savior and High Priest, is seated at the right hand of God, ready to welcome us home.