Many times in the Bible the daily life of a Christian is referred to as a walk. For example, in Colossians 1:10 we are told to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.” Ephesians 4:1 also says, “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.” The Christian life is also referred to as a race. In Hebrews 12:1 we are told to “run with endurance the race that is set before us.” In the Olympics, there are a few main types of races. Of the following, which do you think more closely reflects the race spoken of in Hebrews 12:1?
- Sprint – a quick run completed at full-speed at all times, or
- Hurdles – a run with ten or more hurdles of 3.6 ft in height evenly spaced along the race track, or
- Steeplechase – a long distance run with 28 hurdles and seven water jumps during the duration of the race, or
- Marathon – a 26 mile run. (Approximately from Scott City to Sikeston), or
- All of the Above!
If you are like me, sometimes it feels like all of the above. Sometimes the race we run feels like a sprint and we seem to always be moving from one thing to another as quickly as possible. Other times it feels like we seem to be jumping one hurdle after another. Other times it feels as if we are just continually going with no end in sight. We are counseled in Scripture to run with endurance the race set before us. We do so by looking back, looking around, and looking forward.
We Need to Look Back
Christians need to remember those who have gone before us. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. Hebrews 11 serves as an example of those who had faith and looked forward to the Gospel Age. Christians are living in the “day of salvation” (1 Cor 6:2). Whereas the Old Testament saints (cloud of witnesses) looked forward, we are called to look back to their lives of faith. They gained approval through their faith and they serve as examples.
What is the cloud of witnesses? They testify to us, not for us. They are not witnesses in that they are witnessing what we are doing. They are witnesses who testify to us through their life that God is faithful. They serve as examples of God’s faithfulness to His promises and to His Covenant. We do not see them because they are already in heaven. We do not communicate with them (i.e., as in prayers to the saints). We are surrounded by the unified testimony of the faithful that God is trustworthy and true.
It is Necessary to Look Around
Christians need to look around them for anything that may hinder their run. After seeing the encouragement of those who have gone before us, we look around for anything that will hinder us from running well and with endurance. Two specific things are mentioned: any weight and sin. Let’s consider the first one. We need to lay aside every weight. This is something that may not necessarily be sinful but it is not helpful. Let me reiterate what was just said. We are counselled in Scripture to live our lives in such a way that we intentionally purge things in our life that do not help us grow in Christian maturity. The imagery here is of a runner evaluating himself and removing things from himself that will hinder him in his race and keeping that which will help him. This raises many questions and I will try to give the best Biblical answer possible to a few of them: 1) Does this mean I have to give away all my possessions? 2) Does this mean I cannot have nice things? 3) Does this mean I have to move to Africa? The answer to these questions and questions like it is this: Does it help or hinder your pursuit of holiness? If it helps, keep it. If it hinders, get rid of it. This is between you and God. Ask Him to evaluate and reveal to you things in your life that help and hinder your race.
We also need to lay aside every sin which so easily ensnares us. This is different from the “weight” mentioned earlier. Whereas the weight may or may not be sinful, every sin in our life needs to be repented of and forsaken. Sin is dangerous and should not be trifled with. Sin can harden our hearts (Heb 3:13), deaden our conscience (Rom 13:5), bring God’s discipline (Rov 3:12), and rob us of our joy and strength (Psalm 51).
We Must Look Forward
Christians need to keep their focus on Jesus who leads them forward. Verse 2 tells us that as we run we must be “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith…” Many athletes speak of the goals they have when they run. Some mention that they run in order to make their parents and/or country proud. Others speak of the desire to win the Gold Medal or to be recognized as the greatest in that particular field. We are instructed in Hebrews 12:2 that our overarching goal and motivation is Jesus. When we fix our eyes on Jesus we can run with endurance and seek to eliminate the possibility of distraction. Ever wonder why horses wear blinders? According to the Dallas Equestrian Center, “Horses sometimes need to be made to focus and blinders keep the horse’s eyes focused on what is ahead, rather than what is at the side or behind.” This doesn’t negate what we have just learned but is the reminder that our focus must be forward towards Jesus. We look to Jesus as the author of our faith and the one who will bring our faith to completion. Jesus is the One who sets our Christian walk in motion and will bring it to its appropriate end. We can be assured of this because He endured ahead of us and “has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2).
Finally, we must remember that we “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb 12:1). Christians run the race that God assigns to them. This brings us great comfort because we know that God has provided a “racetrack” that is specifically suited for us and our relationship with Jesus. When you are struggling, remember that Jesus is with you and is guiding you along His path that leads to Him. It will be difficult, but God is faithful. Trust Him and live by faith.