At the end of each month this year, I am writing a ‘thought for the month’. This one is July’s. You will find the others here.


I am not a natural athlete. I enjoy walking, cycling and swimming. But I find running really difficult – and the idea of running any sort of race fills me with dread!

Yet every four years, I love to watch the Olympic Games – from the comfort of my sofa, of course – cheering on the athletes as they race to become the world’s fastest men and women of all time.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games are taking place at the moment – a whole year later than planned, thanks to the minor matter of a global pandemic – and they are already excelling in the ‘unusual’ stakes! From the utter lack of crowds of spectators, to compulsory daily COVID tests for all the athletes, to podium ceremonies in which the winners have to place their own medals around their necks, while wearing facemasks, Tokyo 2020 will be remembered for being abnormal.

The Bible compares the Christian life with running a race, which is envisaged more as a marathon than a sprint.

In Hebrews 12:1-2, we read: “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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

The writer is drawing on the rich imagery of the athletes-of-old, who would run races across ancient Israel and Greece, and around the amphitheatres of Rome, surrounded by row upon row of spectators. (What a contrast to the empty stadiums at Tokyo 2020!)

The Biblical analogy describes these spectators as ‘a great cloud of witnesses’, who have just been listed in the previous chapter – men and women of God, who persevered in their faith, despite opposition and oppression, and whose testimonies live on.

What, then, does this teach us about how to run the marathon race, which is the Christian life?

I’d like to suggest there are three things …


  • Get rid of hindrances

Firstly, this verse tells us we are to, “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles”.

The ancient athletes used to run naked! The modern Olympic athletes dress more modestly, but their clothing is streamlined and lightweight. It is designed to enable athletes to run unimpeded. It helps them get rid of every potentially cumbersome hindrance.

Those of us who are ‘athletes’ in the Christian life need to do the same. We need to get rid of everything that might slow us down, or trip us up; any thoughts, attitudes, habits or sin that might hinder our progress in the race.

If this is you: Is there anything hindering you in your Christian life? Is there any sin that keeps entangling you and holding you back? What things do you need to do to get rid of that are impeding your faith in Jesus?


  • Run with perseverance

Secondly, this verse tells us we are to, “run with perseverance the race marked out for us”.

All athletes have to pace themselves. They have to know what the race will entail, train for it, and follow the route carefully. After all, a marathon is a strenuous test of endurance, fitness and stamina. It requires dedicated training over many months and years of hard graft. Winning a medal doesn’t just happen overnight. It requires patience and perseverance.

Those of us who are ‘athletes’ in the Christian life need to do the same. We have to understand what faith in Jesus will entail, train appropriately, and follow the course that God has for our lives. We have to appreciate that tests, trials and temptations might come our way. We have to commit to cultivating the disciplines that will help us remain steadfast in our faith in Jesus – prayer, fasting, worship, reading the Bible, meeting regularly with other Christians. And we have to do our best to stay on track, persevering, even when we want to give up.

If this is you: Are you persevering in the Christian life? Are you practising daily disciplines that will help keep you on course? Or are you getting side tracked by tests, trials and temptations? What do you need to do to remain steadfast in your faith in Jesus?


  • Focus on Jesus

Thirdly, this verse tells us that it’s all about, “fixing our eyes on Jesus”.

When athletes run, their gaze is set towards the finishing line. They are not distracted by the crowds who are watching them, or the other competitors in the race, or even the conditions of the track. They simply run, to the best of their ability, as fast as they can, to reach the end – and if they gain a medal in the process, and get to stand on the winners’ podium, that’s even better!

Those of us who are ‘athletes’ in the Christian life need to do the same. We must make sure we keep our focus on Jesus, and nothing and nobody else. We need to focus on the eternity of heaven, as well as the transience of earth; on tomorrow, as well as today.

C.S. Lewis, the late great Christian author, wrote this: “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth ‘thrown in’: aim at Earth and you will get neither.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, page 134).

So, if this is you: Are you living with your gaze on eternity, as well as the here and now? Or are you being distracted by other people and other things? What do you need to do to fix your eyes on Jesus?


The athletes in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games must regularly wrestle with wanting to quit: Stress and anxiety … Pressure and expectation … Fatigue and exhaustion … Blisters and injuries … Dehydration and energy depletion … All these things and more.

Yet they are so experienced at endurance racing that they push through to finish the course.

If you are a Christian, will you do the same?
And if you aren’t a Christian, what steps could you take to find out more about joining the race that is the Christian life?

As ever, all constructive thoughts are welcome in the comments!

Image by kinkate from Pixabay 



  1. Thank you for this encouragement and challenge to run the race well, staying focused on the prize that is Jesus.

  2. Thanks for this lovely timely analogy Jo. I think I’m a bit of an ‘un-fit’ Christian at the moment and this has encouraged me to up my Christian fitness training.

    • Joanna Watson Reply

      I’m sure you’re probably not as ‘unfit’ as you feel, Jackie, but all the best with your training!

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