One of the ultimate endurance events in all of sports is the Tour de France, a grueling, three-week, 2,200-mile race that runs throughout France. But it’s not simply the distance that creates the fierce challenge, but the towering mountains. The New York Times once compared the race to “running a marathon several days a week for nearly three weeks,” and likened the total mountain ascents to scaling “three Everests.”
The last day of the multistaged race sees an international group of cyclists sprint toward a finish line down the Champs-Elysees in Paris. Thousands line the way to welcome and cheer the champions. But some who began the race do not finish; they become casualties of the competition. Others cross the finish line with aches, or even wounds, bearing testimony to the harsh punishment the race exacts.
Endurance is about hanging on until the end, never giving up, no matter what the cost. That’s true in the Tour de France as well as the Christian life. The writer of Hebrews used the image of an endurance race to describe how Jesus also made it to the end. Listen to the early verses of chapter 12, as vividly rendered in The Message:
Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! (Hebrews 12:2, 3).
Endurance is not about beginning, but finishing. There is no super marathon or Tour de France that faintly compares to what it cost Jesus to endure the cross. This meal we are about to eat is meant to remind us that it cost him his own flesh and blood—everything!
Along the streets of Paris every sum-mer, crowds cheer and crown some re-markable champions. But long after the colored jerseys fade and cash prizes are spent, the crown after the cross remains.
If you ever wonder whether enduring is worth it, listen to Hebrews once again: “Keep your eyes on Jesus. . . . Study how he did it. . . . That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” And remember, the ultimate finish line isn’t found on a street in Paris, but on one that lies in Heaven.
David Ray is dean of the graduate seminary at Cincinnati Christian University and professor of practical ministries at Cincinnati Christian University.