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..."
Eighty-six-year-old Joy Johnson, a veteran of 25 New York City marathons, died with her running shoes on.
Johnson, who was the oldest runner in last year's marathon, fell at the twenty mile marker in the event. She cossed the finish line at about eight hours. After the race she returned to her hotel room, laid down with her shoes on, and never woke up again.
Amazingly, Johnson did not run her first marathon until she was sixty one. The only hint of the sport was the verse from Isaiah 40:31 which hung on the kitchen wall in her family farm house in rural Minnesota: "But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." Ironically, the career gym teacher, Johnson was a stranger to personal exercise until she took a three-mile walk in 1986. Then she started jogging and competing in 10-k races. By 1988 she competed in her first New York City marathon. Three years later she recorded her best time at age sixty four with a time of 3 hours and 55 minutes. A few years ago she told a reporter about her exercise regime. She would wake up at 4 am, drink her coffee while reading her Bible, and then set out on an 8 mile pre-dawn run. "When you wake up it can either be a good day or a bad day," Johnson said, "I always say, "It's going to be a good day."" The devout Christian ran every day but Sunday so she could attend church. Johnson sang hymns to herself to pass the time while running. According to Johnson's daughter, "She was always a happy runner—and besides her faith and family, this was something she loved the most." Now she has joined that, "great cloud of witnesses," cheering the rest of us on in our races.
The point of Hebrews 12:1 is that we finish well, that we finish with our running shoes on. The Christian life is a marathon race where the only ones on the side lines are those who have already finished. It is our faith that leads us to strap on our running shoes and "run the race marked out for us." When you came to Jesus in faith you joined the race. You are never too old, too young or too out of shape to run. Are you running in such a way as to receive a prize? Paul, the apostle who penned most of the New Testament, died with his running shoes on. He said, "For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:6-7). When your race is done will you be able to say the same? Like Johnson, we too should die with our running shoes on.
Prayer: Father, we know we are in a marathon race. The winners will be those who finish with their running shoes on. You marked the path for us through Jesus and we must follow. Help us to cast off what will slow us down and fix our eyes on that finish line where You wait for us who will claim the victory through our Savior Jesus. In His name, amen!