You most likely know that the modern Olympic Games had their roots in ancient Greece. The writers of the New Testament were clearly conversant with the Games, and on numerous occasions they drew analogies from the Games in their writings. Take, for example, this passage of Scripture from 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 …”
The author here describes the Christian life not as going for an early morning jog, but like competing in the Games, running in the arena with the stands absolutely packed with spectators cheering us on. And because we are surrounded by such a cloud of these witnesses—the saints of old—we are to run our race with perseverance.
In other words, if you're going to run the race of the Christian life, do it knowing there are countless faithful saints who've gone before you, cheering you on to the finish line!
Now if the saints of old are the ones in the stands cheering us on, what is at the end of our race? What is the goal to which we are looking as we strive to persevere in the Christian life?
Well, in the ancient Games, next to the finish line was a structure called the “bema.” It was a high place on which the judge sat. The moment the athletes completed their race, they went straight to the bema, stood before the judge, and he evaluated what they had done and gave a crown to the winner.
The Bible describes a very similar setting in heaven—even borrowing the same term, bema—to describe a time after this life is over when we will stand before our righteous judge, Jesus Christ, to await our heavenly rewards. The apostle Paul wrote about this blessed event in 2 Corinthians 5:10…
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat [bema] of Christ, that everyone may receive what is due them for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”
Now this event is clearly separate from the judgment for the forgiveness of our sins. That's settled the moment we place our faith in Christ. This event is to reward us based upon the things we did while in the body.
Jesus, our great Savior, is sitting at the end of the race of our lives, waiting to reward those who truly know Him. Not only that, but you have the faithful men and women who've gone before you, cheering you on toward that end. What an encouragement!
When we think of it this way, persevering in the Christian life is a joy, rather than a task. So on those tough days when taking another step seems incredibly arduous, get your second wind by depending on the Holy Spirit and remembering these truths. Imagine heroes like Moses, Abraham, and Paul cheering you on toward the finish. And look ahead to the incredible rewards Jesus has in store for you!