1 Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, 2 keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider him who endured such hostility from sinners against himself, so that you won’t grow weary and give up.
Running has never been my passion. Of course, my husband contends that I’m always running. Running late, that is.
He, on the other hand, is passionate about running. He has run 27 full marathons, 35 half-marathons, one 1,000K race and countless 5Ks and fun runs. It’s ironic to me—he doesn’t run to win, but just to finish the race and cross the finish line. Of course, the cheers of the crowd, the comradery with other runners and the finisher’s medal add to the joy, excitement and sense of accomplishment.
I am not surprised that Paul would compare the running of a race with the Christian life. One might even call this passage in Hebrews 12:1-3, “The Race of Faith.” It is a fitting metaphor, since both races require endurance, perseverance, discipline and focus.
There are also other similarities between running for sport and running the Christian life. For example, in both there is a goal. The course has been laid out. The goal for the runner is the finish line. For the Christian, it is nothing less than Christ Himself—to be like Christ and to be in the presence of Christ.
Both races require inspiration. The runner has the shouts and cheers of an enthusiastic crowd, while the Christian has an “unseen cloud of witnesses” who have gone before us. We are to find encouragement as we look back at their lives and see how they each ran their race. But we also look to Jesus, who is our best example as a starter and a finisher of the race.
Runners and Christians alike have handicaps. A handicap is anything that impedes or weighs the runner down. Marathoners choose light weight shoes and scanty clothing and will jettison anything which might slow their pace or affect their finish time. In the Christian life, it is our responsibility to discard anything which holds us back, including sin, bad habits or unhealthy relationships. With help from Christ, we must let go of encumbrances so we can demonstrate a lifestyle that reflects Christ-likeness and our devotion to God.
The secret to a runner’s success is steadfast endurance—a determination or a persistence which refuses to be defeated. This same perseverance must be exercised in the Christian life. We must not allow obstacles to daunt us, delays to depress us, or discouragement to take away our hope. Fatigue, thirst, body aches and pains, the ravages of extreme temperatures—all these can distract the runner. It would be easy to give in and give up.
But despite the temptation to quit, the racer focuses on the prize and refuses to give up. When we as Christians are tempted to give up or give in, we must fix our eyes on Jesus. To reach the goal before Him, Jesus Christ focused on the joy which was set before Him. He focused not on the agonies of the cross but on the crown. William Barclay writes, “The agony of suffering love always produces the ecstasy of holy joy.” What joy was His as He fulfilled God’s plan and sat down at the right hand of the Father! If He could endure the cross, what suffering is too great for us?
Pastor Mike Glenn often reminds us, “Life is a marathon, not a sprint.” So, run with endurance. Press on, surrounded by witnesses and oblivious to everything but the glory of being forever in the company of Jesus Christ. He made the journey, reached the goal and now waits to welcome us when we reach the finish line.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- What is the hardest thing you’re going through right now? What is burdening you? What would it mean, in this situation, if you “fixed your eyes on Jesus?” How might God be using this in your life?
- Ask yourself, “Am I farther on the way to maturity and Christ-likeness today than yesterday?” If not, what do you need to cast off or let go of to be more like Christ?
- Write a short paragraph about yourself as you’d want it to appear in Hebrews 11. “By faith, write your name here walked with God by obediently doing (fill in the blank).” Pray, asking God to help you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus as you run the race set before you.
It’s game day…set up a race (nothing fancy needed). A race could simply be running from a starting point to an ending point or designating a competition around one activity (i.e. jumping jacks, burpees, balancing on something). The activity isn’t the important part—here is where it gets interesting. Each race or competition will be between two people. One participant will have to go twice the distance or twice the goal while the other participant will only do half of that same challenge. For the participant only doing half the work, that particular person will have to be weighted down in some way. It could be carrying something or perhaps putting on something like ankle weights. Which person will have the advantage? Who will win the race? Why do you think this? Discuss this activity and how this relates to Paul’s analogy.
Pray for an unreached, unengaged people group today. We have global workers in our church family who create digital resources that illustrate the truth of the gospel of Jesus for people groups in East Asia where there are no believers yet. Learn more about the unreached, unengaged at Joshua Project.