“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honour beside God’s throne.” (Hebrews 12:1,2 NLT)
When I was ten years old, my brother and I joined the cross country team and my dad would bring us to a nearby park to train. Every practice run was challenging, at times daunting, and even wearisome, but what made it bearable was knowing there was an end destination, the path was clear, and there were people with me.
The Apostle Paul compares our lives to a race – not a sprint, but a marathon that requires endurance. The difference between a typical cross country race and the race of our lives is that the race we run every day has less to do with finishing first, but rather, has more to do with running well. What will it take for us to run our race of life well?
We read in Hebrews 12:2 that “we do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” For so many of us, we are always looking for what is next, how to achieve our next goal, how to attain what we are missing in life, or when will we finally get a break. If you caught Pastor Dave’s message on “Traps” last weekend, this sounds a lot like the “Trap of the Treadmill.” In this trap, we find ourselves in a cycle of seeming productivity, but in reality, it’s a cycle of tiresome busyness that leads to discontent (click HERE to watch the sermon). Goals and desires are not bad things, but the Bible makes it clear that the only way we endure is by keeping our destination in mind – Jesus! He is not only our Lord, our Saviour, our Shepherd, our Friend, our Peace, our Love, our Empowerment (by His Spirit), our Joy, or our Strength. He is where we are going. He is our destination. Where Jesus is, heaven is made manifest and we have all that we need.
Once we know our destination, it becomes vitally important that we run “the race God has set before us” (12:1). Every person’s journey will look different, with its own mountains and valleys. If we understand this, we are less prone to comparing our lives with those around us, especially with those who seem to be doing better or who seem to have things easier. God knows our journey and He has equipped us with everything we need to run well.
Finally, we run well by observing, being encouraged by, and running with those who are “witnesses to the life of faith” (12:1). These witnesses are not limited to those listed in Hebrews 11, but could include anyone who has gone before us or who runs alongside us, exemplifying a life of enduring faith. Our greatest example is our Lord Jesus, who for “the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame” (12:2). We were never meant to run this life alone, but rather, with our Lord Jesus and with His body (fellow brothers and sisters in Christ – the church, Life Groups!). As we do this, we find ourselves better able to “strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up” (12:1).
Just as cross country running seemed easier for me when I had the destination in mind, a clear pathway, and people with me, may we run this race of life well with similar things in mind. Jesus is our destination; we are meant to run the unique path before us; furthermore, we are meant to be encouraged by the life and presence of faithful believers who have gone before us and who go with us.