Hebrews 12:1-3 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”
Run to win
Each of us is placed in our own unique situation by God: friends, family, abilities, gifts, trials, mountains and valleys. We are called to run “the race that is set before us.” It is so easy to look at the runners next to us, thinking how much easier it would be to live their life`, but the fact of the matter is, it isn’t up to us. The more distracted we get by what we don’t have, the less effectively we’re running with what we do. When our eyes fall from the finish line to anything else around us, we are not running well. It is a waste of time and energy to wish for and linger on what we cannot have. God gave you your journey for a reason and only He knows why.
As we focus on the road set before us, we must do so with self-discipline, determination and perseverance. Our passage says to “run with endurance the race that is set before us.” There are no guarantees that life will be smooth sailing as a child of God. We live in a fallen world full of sin and its consequences of pain and suffering. In addition to this, the Bible promises us that because we are followers of Jesus, the world will revile us. We must stand firmly on the truths of the gospel and be geared up and ready to run with intentionality of purpose regardless of what comes our way.
All of this comes together to mean that we must be prepared to finish our race. The writer to the Hebrews was addressing a congregation under severe persecution and it must have been incredibly tempting to opt out, give up, and walk away. We, as the universal church, are urged here to press on to the finish line. We have just been given numerous examples of lives that demonstrated incredible faith and are encouraged to follow their example. Press on, don’t give up, follow Christ with endurance and purpose in the moment and place you’ve been given. Don’t compromise, don’t stray or lose focus in covetousness or despair. God is with you on the path He gave you, and He will walk with you to the very end.
“Am I a soldier of the cross-
A follower of the Lamb?
And shall I fear to own His cause,
Or blush to speak His name.
In the name, the precious name,
Of Him who died for me,
Through grace I’ll win the promised crown
Whate’er my cross may be.
Since I must fight if I would reign
Increase my courage, Lord!
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by thy word.”
Heavenly Father, help us to follow You with perseverance. Help us to be present in the situations You have ordained for us to walk in. Protect us from the sins of envy and self-pity and help us to keep our eyes on You, and You alone. Sustain us when we are weak and weary, and as You provide for us in suffering and pain, knit our hearts ever closer to Yours. We love You, Jesus. Hold us close.
In Your Name we pray, Amen.
Run with freedom
If we are to really run our race well, efficiently, and effectively we can’t carry unnecessary baggage. This passage urges us to lay aside the weights of anything that keep us from following Jesus to our utmost. This could mean your personal comfort, expectations, or desires, or it could mean that one particular sin that “clings so closely” to you, that you have chosen to overlook in the past. These hindrances keep us from effective life and ministry in Christ and slow us in our race. Cast them aside. Anything keeping you from closer communion with Jesus is not worth it, I promise you.
Though these things feel so difficult, heartrending and life-changing, we run not as those who must trudge along knowing we will lose, but with hope. The war has already been won. Jesus has already won the victory. We have the examples of all of these followers of Jesus that have finished their races well, trusting God and allowing Him to alter the course of their lives. Their stories tell us that it is possible to finish well, and they pass the torch on to us to show the glory of God in the lives of men. It is possible to trust God through the storms of life and to allow this faith to fuel you.
Let go of the things that keep you from Jesus. Look past the gifts He gives and look at Him. You may gain the whole world and lose everything in the process. As Francis Chan asked: “Do you know that nothing you do in this life will ever matter, unless it is about loving God and loving the people that He has made?” Let go of anything holding you back and run with endurance. Don’t give up. Seek him in the narrow, dark, lonely places and never stop, knowing it’s only by His grace that we have life and breath, and only He can give you the strength to keep on.
Dear Jesus, give us endurance. Our battle starts over again every day, and every day we struggle to recommit our minds and hearts to you. Give us faith to keep fighting and remind us daily why we fight. Help us to let go of all the selfishness and pride that keeps us so far from you and to cast away anything that slows us in our race. We love you, Jesus. Thank you.
In Your Name we pray, Amen.
Run looking to Jesus
If you’ve ever run a race, even as a child, you know the feeling when you round the last corner and see the finish line. All of a sudden, the weariness and soreness that was all you could think about only seconds before, fades away and you push even harder in order to reach your goal. Being close enough to see that finish line is all you need to finish the race well.
Why are you running the path of the Christian faith? Are you seeking to gain the approval of man, or of God? Do you simply want to feel good about yourself and your achievements? These reasons will never get you to the finish line. The end of the race will never be in sight.
Friends, Jesus is our goal. He is our Savior, the one who fought His own race so that we could come to Him. The way He endured the trials in His life is more than enough of an example for how we should face ours. Our passage tells us that we should be “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” He endured the cross because of the joy and glory that was coming to Him. He is our perfect example, our finish line, and our ultimate reward. Jesus is everything.
The only way we will be able to live a life of faith like all these courageous men and women we’ve heard about, is if we look to Jesus. By your own strength, you will never get there. You can’t white-knuckle will yourself into believing enough. “Grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home” (John Newton). The only way to finish your race well is to fix your eyes on Jesus and let all the world fade away.
I pray that at the end of our days, we would be able to say these words along with the Apostle Paul.
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:6-8.
By our own strength Lord, we can do nothing. We are reliant fully on you for every part of salvation, sanctification included. We need you, Father, and we admit it with reckless abandon. Without you, we are dead to righteousness and grace. Thank you for giving us life and the light of Your presence. Be with us as we travel through this broken world. Make us more like You and help us to trust You and stand firmly in Your promises. Thank you for teaching us through the lives of Your people. We love you.
In Your Name we pray, Amen.
Posted on August 13, 2019
by Shelli Jones