When I was at university I joined the Officer Training Corps, with the intention of becoming an army doctor one day. Sometimes we went away for weekends and I was introduced to the wider world of the army, like higher ranking officials, the officer's mess, marching, and getting up early every morning to exercise.
Our Commanding Officer was the highest ranking person we ever saw there, and he would occasionally come into view at specific events. I had a lot of respect for him because of his position, but one day my respect grew even more.
It was the day of our Combat Fitness Test, which we all had to pass in order to stay in the army. We had to do a long run, kitted out with a full and weighted backpack. When that was finished we had to clamber up into the back of an army truck, back down again, and then run a distance carrying two large and heavy water carriers.
I had not long ago come off crutches because of breaking my ankle, so I was not one of the most fit people there and was quite anxious about whether I would be able to complete the test or not!
We all set off running, and before long I was at the back with a couple of others, just trying to keep going. What stood out to me about that day was that our Commanding Officer, this high up person who we'd never talked to and we were all afraid of, ran WITH us the whole way. And what's more, he spent quite some time at the back with us stragglers just encouraging us to keep going.
We all made it to the finish line and passed. But I'm not so sure we would have done without him being there!
That has always been a picture to me of how good leaders get down in the dirt with those they are leading, willing to do the same as them, and encouraging them along the way.
God has also done that with us. He didn't just stay aloof, but sent his son Jesus down to earth. He was also tempted as we were:
"For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weakness, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin." Heb 4:15
Jesus is the Commander of the Lord's Army (Joshua 5:13-15), and just like my Commanding Officer he showed us that we could do it and encouraged us by going through it Himself.
What's even better than that, is that He can give us actual strength (which my Commanding Officer couldn't do) if we are dependent on Him:
'And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.' 2 Cor 12:9
So we can be encouraged that as we run this race and fight through opposition, trials and temptations, Jesus has been through the same thing and will give us strength to follow Him.
One of my favourite passages of Scripture reminds of this, and tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus. I love it so much that I have memorized it and I encourage you to do the same! Or at least just say it out loud and slowly - it has more impact that way :)
Therefore we also,
since we are surrounded
by so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us lay aside every weight,
and the sin which so easily ensnares us,
and let us run with endurance
the race that is set before us,
looking unto Jesus,
the author and finisher of our faith,
who for the joy set before Him,
endured the cross,
despising the shame
and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Therefore consider Him
who endured such opposition
from sinful men against Himself,
lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.
You have not yet resisted to bloodshed,
striving against sin.