Daily Encouragement Net
"Encourage one another daily" (Hebrews 3:13).
A daily, Bible-based perspective of
hope, encouragement and exhortation.

Heartbreak Hill (Parts 1 and 2)

Monday, April 17, 2000

"Heartbreak Hill" (Part 1)

"As the time approached for Him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51).

Today my family will be going into Boston to watch the 104th Boston Marathon. This year we plan to observe and cheer the runners on at what is probably the most famous slope in all running, "Heartbreak Hill". This hill is not particularly steep but comes at a psychologically difficult time for the gentle grade wears at the weary runners. Crowds are huge and I suspect the thousands of anonymous voices are a tremendous encouragement to the runners.

A spiritual "heartbreak hill" is an experience that virtually all believers will encounter at least once in life. Maybe you’ve had yours (there may be more to come). Undoubtedly some of you are on one right now. But I want to think this morning of "heartbreak hill" for Jesus. In Luke 9:51 we get a glimpse of His deep resolve to fulfill His Father’s mission, "As the time approached for Him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem." Of course before Jesus was taken up into heaven he made the final blood sacrifice with His own blood. That sacrifice would take place through Jerusalem.

Just prior to the Triumphal Entry we read in Luke 19:28, "He went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem". The phrase "going up" is very purposeful, translating the Greek "anabaino", the same word used when Zacchaeus "climbed" the sycamore tree. The King James Version translates it "ascending". This was the greatest "heartbreak hill" but certainly not in relationship to the elevation difference and physical exertion. Luke 19:41 states that "As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it." This was spiritual heartbreak and His heart was broken for us! "Did e'er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown?"

Today my word of encouragement to my fellow runners, some of whom are even now on heartbreak hill: "Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart" (Hebrews 12:3).

Be encouraged today,

Stephen C. Weber

As I write this early in the morning the runners are gathering at the start in the quintessential New England village of Hopkinton, MA. Over 18,000 will start the race and there are tens of thousands of spectators there as well. I was at the finish line in the 1997 Boston Marathon and what an incredible experience. The crowd was so heavy that Brooksyne, at 5 feet 3 inches grew restless because she couldn’t see anything and wandered off to explore the wares of street vendors. (Women always like to shop!) I placed Ester on my shoulders and at 6 feet 2 inches managed to see over the crowd that lines the course for miles.

When runners enter Boston they have ahead of them one of the greatest finishing spectacles in all of sports. Hundreds of thousands of cheering fans line Beacon Street to Kenmore Square, where the Citgo sign is well known as the one-mile-to-go mark. At Kenmore the crowd swells even further, thanks in part to baseball fans who are leaving from the traditional morning Red Sox game in nearby Fenway Park.

The finish line is in the shadow of the Boston Public Library and the John Hancock Tower and early this morning people are already gathering for a good spot. It’s an outstanding experience and reminds me of the spiritual truth in 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."

Tuesday, April 18, 2000

"Heartbreak Hill (Part 2)"

"Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us" (Hebrews 12:1b).

Yesterday we made it out to Heartbreak Hill to view the Boston Marathon from that vantage point. We took the train out to Newton, walked over to the racecourse at the foot of Heartbreak Hill and walked up about ¾ of the hill to where we would view the race. We were at about the 20-mile mark of the 26+ mile course. We were there about an hour before the first race participants came through.

The first contestants were not runners, but wheelchairs, who had a fifteen-minute headstart from the runners. The hill was a particular challenge to these superb athletes and the grimaces were very apparent as they lowered their heads and gave it all they had to make the grade. The din of crowd rises as each one comes through encouraging them to keep on going. One was so weary the chair started to roll backwards and what a thrill to see him regroup and surge forward at the shouts of encouragement from the crowd. Brooksyne and I both had tears in our eyes as several of them acknowledged a pained expression of appreciation.

The first runners were a group of Kenyans who hardly even looked tired! We stayed at our place on Heartbreak until the first women runners came through and then walked back to the city along the course for over a mile. By this time there was a steady stream of runners, which continued all through the afternoon. The crowds of spectators got even larger as we walked along closer to the city and I find it remarkable that these runners had the benefit of shouting encouragers virtually the entire marathon course! The cheers are non-discriminating and merely urge the runners to keep on going.

Here’s a spiritual application for spiritual runners, who join me in "running with perseverance the race marked out for us":

Encouragement is vital and we can all encourage our fellow runners. The spectators at the Boston marathon virtually all had no motivation except cheering on a fellow human being attempting to reach a tremendous goal; that of finishing a marathon. Only a relative tiny handful of the elite runners had a realistic chance at actually winning the race in each class. The goal of most of the 18,000 was to merely finish. In this Christian race there is no single winner, but we desire that all of our fellow runners make it to the finish and encourage them as we run along and we ourselves receive mutual encouragement.

At the crest of heartbreak hill the runners get their first glimpse of the Boston skyline where the finish line is. One encourager’s sign read, "Hearbreak is over, you’re on your way home".

What a powerful spiritual reality. So often at the crest of our own spiritual heartbreak hills we also get a glimpse of the finish line. Following the call to "run with perseverance the race marked out for us" Hebrews 12 goes on to say, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus" (v. 2). He’s the ultimate sign of our finish!

Keep running today my friend; you’re on your way home.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen C. Weber

PS: Our experience yesterday included other illustrations that touch my heart such as:
  • The runner who turned around and shouted a word of encouragement to a wheelchair participant as he passed him on heartbreak hill.
  • The wheelchair participant who apparently had no arms or legs that was pushed the entire race.
  • The man that ran entire race with his baby on his back!
  • A 28-year-old heart transplant recipient who finished the race.
  • The loud applause given to weary runners as they got on the packed train at the train stops after the finish line.

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission; and the King James Version.
Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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