When our boys were small we used to go down to Elland Road to watch Leeds United. Well, I say we “watched Leeds United” – in fact, on one desultory Saturday afternoon, as we slipped deeper into the relegation zone, I noticed that: my youngest was pre-occupied watching the huge digital clock changing seconds; my eldest was standing on his chair staring wide-eyed and listening agog, hearing words too rough for such innocent ears; and my wife had her binoculars focussed on the celebrities from Emmerdale in the comfortable seats in the opposite stand. Couldn’t blame them really.

I have to be honest and say that although I did try and watch Leeds in the lower leagues I am not a fan with that sort of endurance – please don’t judge me. Real fans keep singing that they are Marching On Together … and that they Love You, Leeds, Leeds, Leeds – through success and failure, through rejoicing and disappointment – they endure. Indeed, Leeds United is renowned for its (real) fanbase.

And the other day, Jasmin Paris from Midlothian, made history by being the first woman to complete the Barkley Marathon (it’s an ultramarathon over more than 100 miles and involving 60,000ft of climb and descent). That’s another level of endurance altogether.

Endurance is a biblical concept. During Lent this year, our church read through the letter to the Hebrews and I was brought up short by these words, “Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:3). It is a recurring theme through Hebrews – the sacrificial perseverance of Christ. But what struck me was that this exhortation wasn’t a mechanism to sidestep hardship and trouble but an instruction in how to endure through the course of the pain.

The writer had used a sporting metaphor (let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us) to describe how Jesus endured – by throwing off everything that hinders, scorning shame, withstanding opposition – for the Joy set before Him.

In the aftermath of running her race, Jasmin showed the scratches and wounds on her arms and legs from running through the thorny undergrowth. Whilst her injuries were being treated she texted that she was “overjoyed” to have completed the race.

Actually, the key word in the Hebrews 12:3 exhortation is, “consider”. Consider Jesus and His way of dealing with unimaginable brutality and betrayal. To “consider” is to take time to reflect and contemplate, to bring your thoughts to a focus on Jesus and to interrogate how He behaved and reacted and prayed – even as He endured through death on the cross.

The thing is that we know the end of the story. We know that there is Joy to come for those who endure. We do not grow weary and lose heart because we are focussing on, we are watching, we are considering the One who has gone before us and who has risen on the other side of pain and loss and opposition, risen – to Joy.

Jasmin knew there would be Joy if she endured. With six games left of the season (depending upon when you read this), Leeds United fans can almost taste the Joy of promotion to the Premier League.

May we, citizens of another Kingdom, waiting for something more, knowing that that Joy will one day be ours, may we consider Jesus and endure. May we sing our version of (the Leeds United song),

Marching on together…
We shout it out loud, we love you…
we’ve been through it all together,
and we’ve had our ups and downs (oops and downes),
we’re gonna stay with You forever, we love you…

By David Flowers, Leeds Vineyard