Running a Race
“Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” Hebrews 12:1
I went to a really small high school, so you never had to be much of an athlete to make the team. I ran track one year because I was fast. I started quickly and ran out of steam quickly. In our second week of meets, one of the legs for the 1600 meter relay race got sick and the coach told me I was running the leg. Like always, I started fast, this time though I hit a wall and ended very, very slowly, almost walking, batons were passing me right and left. Paul chooses to use the word marathon for the race we run as a Christian. That is, we are running a very long race and perseverance is the key: not starting fast, not looking good, just never stopping.
I now know that the training for a marathon is significantly different from training for 100 meter dash, and running the race is exhausting. To run the spiritual marathon of being a Christian requires a number of practices.
First, we need to recognize that we run this race with the greats of faith history: Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David, Sarah, Rebekkah, Rachel, and Rahab. These examples of faith can strengthen our resolve to move forward.
Second, we must learn to throw off the things that hinder us. There is no sense even trying to run a marathon carrying a fifty-pound bag of cement. There are obvious behaviors and attitudes that must be transformed if we expect to ever get anywhere at all in the race God marked for us.
Third, we must persevere. We sometimes grow impatient with ourselves for not simply becoming what we need to be immediately. We make the mistake of thinking that spiritual transformation unto holiness is like a drive thru when it is far from that. There are some attitudes and behaviors that require tremendous perseverance to change, many rises and falls precede the ultimate victory. What we do know is that God has the best in mind for us and HE will not expect something of us without giving us the resources to make it so.
And finally, we should fix our eyes on Jesus. Becoming Christlike is the ultimate goal for all believers. There are two predominant images of Christ in the New Testament: the lamb that was slain and the Lion of Judah. Jesus on the cross and Jesus on the white horse, Jesus the suffering servant and Jesus the victorious King. When God calls us to become Christlike, which Jesus do we see? The writer to the Hebrews clarifies: “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2 He sees both images, both the cross and the throne. And here is the key for us. The cross is first. It always is. For us to live in glory, we must finish this marathon of life. Glory is just across the finish line. Who lives with you?