Imagine a sporting event with no spectators, no commentators and no reporters. If we include such competitions as debates or chess matches, this might be possible, but even then there would surely be parents, relatives and friends to cheer one’s efforts. Humans seem to be created to seek approval, recognition and validation. All the way from high school to college and then to the pros, there are cheering squads, cheer leaders and rabid fans to help raise the level of performance of the players.
The apostle Paul may not have been a sports fan, but he freely used the metaphors of fights and races to make the point of Christians’ need to prepare themselves and endure hardships to gain the prize of eternal life (1 Ti 6: 12) (2 Ti 4: 7-8) (Php 3: 13-14). It certainly appears he may have observed the marathons that the Greeks ran to gain the earthly rewards. The writer of the Hebrew letter concurs when he says, “let us run with perseverance the race set before us” (Heb 12: 1).
A marathon must seem like a lonesome struggle at times, but usually there are people along the way to encourage the runners with water and pep talks. I’m told that almost all the contestants “hit the wall” somewhere during the race and the body tells the mind it has had enough. If the runner can make it to the stadium and hear the cheers of the crowd, his/her spirits are lifted and can then finish the race with pride and satisfaction.
In our Christian race towards the “goal to win the prize” (Php 3: 13-14) of eternal life with God, we are often weary and allow Satan to throw up obstacles in our path to deter us in our quest. As in the physical marathon, we have fellow Christians who cheer us on with their encouragement and example (Rom 12: 15) (Rom 5: 2).
But have you ever considered our other cheering section? The angels in heaven rejoiced with mankind at the birth of Jesus (Lk 1: 11-16) (Lk 2: 13-14). They also rejoice over the sinner who repents (Lk 15: 7). They long to know about the gospel that men preached through the Holy Spirit (1 Pe 1: 12). Even though they don’t know the full plan of the Godhead, they minister and serve those who will inherit salvation (Heb 1: 14).
The professional sports teams are fortunate if they have loyal fans who cheer them on—win or lose. How much more do New Testament Christians have the love and support of our “fans” on our journey to eternity!