I ran the Grand Valley Half-Marathon this morning. As we approached the two mile mark, I could see a line of runners stretched out in front of me. The speed demons out in front left the rest of us to run our slower paces. Others gaits seemed to betray they were fighting off pain with each step to finish. Collectively, we spurred each other on. Those that reached the turn-around cheered on those still to reach halfway. One man that walked the entire incline of the giant hill, encouraged me when I was down on myself for slowing to a walk halfway to the top.

With two miles to go, I went for broke. I picked up my pace. I was in a gap where I couldn’t see anyone in front of me. The temptation loomed large to slow down again. Then I came across two young women. Fellow Christ-followers. The phrase “I am Second” written between their shoulders. Just below it, “Hebrews 12:1-2.” As they ran 10 feet in front of me and I began to meditate on those verses.

I ran a little faster to pull even with them. As we talked and ran, I found the desire to slow down slide away. I found a renewed energy. We made the last turn and the finish line came into view. The girl in the lead turned back and took the hand of her friend who was struggling a bit. Together, they sped up and crossed the finish line.

This truth stares me in the face each time I run a race. Yet, when I get home the spiritual application flies right over my head. The writer of Hebrews lists of all those who believed God yet never saw the fulfillment of the promise. I often think about those “pillars of the faith.” They encourage me at times but other times they become a discouragment. I place my life next to theirs and start making comparisons. However, I seem to overlook the other cloud of witnesses: my brothers and sisters who are running the race with me.

There are those out in front, either because they have run longer or they have the spiritual aptitude. They have done the hard work and God has blessed them to be where they are. Others are running with wounds and pains but they continue to run. They may have to walk from time to time but they continue. The simple fact they are running beside me, lifts my spirits and encourages me to keep running.

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,

Until recently, I would make a break between running the race and looking to Jesus. In my mind, it felt like the author stopped the running metaphor and moved on to something else. Jesus is the founder or author of our faith. He was the first to run the race perfectly. His finish line was the joy of doing the will of his father. He endured the cross to finish his race.

In that context, Jesus acts as our pacesetter. He runs before each of us, keeping us on pace and encouraging us. When we want to quit, we look to him. Because he finished, we can look to him “so that we may not grow weary or fainthearted.” May we all experience the encouragment of our cloud of witnesses and from the author of our faith to finish the race set before us.