By lap three of seven I was already exhausted. My trainer told me to give 80 percent of my best effort at first and build up to “200 percent on the final lap!” As I rounded the bend before that last lap, he shouted, “I need you to be throwing up at the finish line!” Unfortunately, I duly obliged. But I finished well and clocked a great time.

What motivated me to keep going? Two things: My trainer was watching my every stride and encouraging me each time I came around the track, and more important, I was focused intently on being fast enough to set a time that qualified me for my next stage in military training. If I did well, it meant I could reach my longed-for goal.

In Hebrews 12, the writer exhorts his readers to greater heights in their spiritual walk, citing the fact that they’re being watched by those who went before them as well as those with them now: “Since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd . . . let us run with endurance the race God has set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).

In these verses, we’re encouraged to shake off sin and not “give up” (Hebrews 12:1,3). Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we can focus on our goal of knowing and reflecting Jesus—not on gaining some human achievement (Hebrews 12:2). And we’re enabled to keep going by remembering His example and the reward He received. Christ endured to the end and never gave up. What He faced we’ll never have to experience, but we are blessed to share in His reward.

Let’s keep up the pace and finish the race by focusing on the Captain of our faith—Jesus our risen Lord. As He provides what we need, we can press on and one day share His reward. He gained the victory for us on the cross and provides the encouragement we need to press on!

NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Genesis 40:1-23