Running the Race Well – Hebrews 12:1-2

AMH Series // His Word is Written Across My Heart

I am not a runner.  I’d love to say that I am, but it wouldn’t be true.  It’s a sport that takes conditioning. It takes discipline.  It takes endurance. These are traits that I’d say I have, but I haven’t actually applied them to running.  I think I would be a good runner. I have all the tools, but I’ve really never acted on them.

The Christian life is a race.  Paul used the image of a race to describe what being a Christian is like in several of his letters to various churches.  

“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 shame, and is seated at the right hand of God.”  (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Training for the task

Let’s take a moment to acknowledge that running isn’t easy.  You can’t run a marathon and expect it to be smooth and easy sailing.  There will be blood, sweat, and tears. Likewise, the Christian life isn’t easy.  There are many obstacles in life, and we must be conditioned for the task set before us like a runner is conditioned for his task.

Before Paul tells us to run the race set before us, notice that he says to set aside any weight and sin.  But not just sin. Anything that will weigh us down. Anything that will prevent us from running to our best ability.  He’s telling the marathon runners, “Don’t bring that 32 oz. water bottle. It will weigh you down!” God has already provided the water stations along the way.  Why bring something that will only slow us down?

Finishing in freedom

We want control.  We like knowing that we have backup.  We know that God provides, but we carry extra things along just in case.  We know that if God truly wants us to get married, or have kids, or get a job promotion, He will provide.  But we feel the need to grasp onto the relationship or career path that makes us feel secure.

But God reminds us that in order to run the race well, we need to lay aside any weight and sin.  The things of this world that we tend to grab hold of do not help us to cross the finish line well.  They may make us feel as though we have control in the moment. But in the end, they only slow us down and prevent us from finishing in freedom.  

Running with intention

Notice that Paul doesn’t tell us to walk a walkathon.  He doesn’t say, “Stroll through life. Stop and smell the roses, and eventually wind up at the finish line.”  No, he says run.  Run the race set before you.  Run as if your life depends on it!  Because it does! We do not know how long our life on this earth will be.  But we tend to live as though we have all the time in the world.

It’s so easy to live in Tomorrowland.  Tomorrow I will pray more.  Tomorrow I will study God’s word more.  Tomorrow I will witness to my friend.  James 4:14 contradicts this way of living. You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.   Tomorrow is not guaranteed.  We don’t have time to dawdle!  We must run!  We must live lives marked with intentionality.  We must be people who work diligently for the Kingdom.  God has given us pleasures to enjoy in their time, but as we enjoy these pleasures, we must continue to run the race that He has set before us.

Looking to our trainer

We could stop there, but we’d be missing a vital point.  Paul tells us to look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.  We could live our lives with intentionality.  We could live our lives doing, doing, doing. But without looking to Christ, it’s pointless.  We’d only exhaust ourselves. Without the motivation of reaching the finish line and hearing the Father say, Well done, good and faithful servant, we have no lasting motivation to endure the storms that come our way.  But by gazing at Jesus, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising shame, and is seated at the right hand of God, we are able to endure.  Though storms come, we can run because Jesus accepted the cross with joy so that we might run in freedom.  

though storms come

In the race of life, there are so many things that can divert us from looking at Jesus’ face.  Friends, family, work, and socioeconomic status can be weights that drag us down. They’re good things, but when we grip onto them, we can stop looking to Jesus, the One who strengthens us.  Sometimes these things seem like they will help us, but in the end, they’re the very things that have the potential to drag us down.

Well equipped for the task

We have been given the tools to run the race well.  God has equipped us. We must stay disciplined. Prayer, studying God’s word, and seeking out a community of other godly people can help discipline us and spur us on.  

Let’s not just stand here with the tools in hand.  God has given us the ability to endure, to be conditioned, and to be disciplined.  Let’s actually take these things and run!

From the little experience I’ve had running, it feels so freeing.  Yes, it burns. But when I have decided to get uncomfortable and run, I feel the breeze hitting my face.  I see the beauty around me. My chest hurts. My feet cramp up. But I’m soaring. Sweat dripping on my forehead, I look ahead, imagining the moment I get home.  In life, there have been seasons of beauty. There have been seasons of pain. But I look forward to the finish line. That’s what keeps me going onward.

It is my prayer that we will be runners who are well-trained and disciplined to endure the race.  It’s hard. But by keeping Christ as our one goal, we press on. The cares of the world call out, but Jesus’ face is brighter.  What weights are holding you back? What is keeping you from running the race in freedom?  

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