Tag: How to Run the Race with Perseverance

Running the Race to the Finish

Running the Race to the Finish

The Christian life is not only a journey towards heaven which is our final destination; it is also a race wherein Christians are like competitors in an athletic event. Indeed, Christians are running the race of faith and they are exhorted by the author of the book of Hebrews to run the race to the finish.

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author, and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

The Cloud of Witnesses

Whenever we see the word “therefore” in a sentence, we know that it functions to introduce a logical result or conclusion. That being said, we can confidently say that Hebrews 12:1 is a concluding statement of the previous chapter about the heroes of faith.

Furthermore, it says that “we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.” Cloud in both the Greek and Latin refers to a great number of people or things. So, the great cloud of witnesses” is composed of the saints mentioned in chapter 11 of Hebrews: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Samson, David, Samuel, and the prophets.

Run the Race of Faith to the Finish

Some have come to think of these champions of faith as spectators from the heavens, cheering us on as we run the race, like people seated in a stadium. This has led to the belief that people in heaven know and see everything that is happening on earth. But that is inconclusive.

One more thing, if people in heaven can see the difficulties, pain, and suffering that their loved ones are going through on earth, as well as the terror and wickedness of evil people, how can they have complete joy? Isn’t heaven a place of joy where there are no more tears and no more sorrows?

When the writer said we are surrounded by these witnesses, the stress is not on the idea that they are observing us or witnessing what we are doing. Rather, that we look to them and studiously observe them as exemplary individuals given by the author of Hebrews from history to encourage us to persevere.

How to Run the Race to Win

For us to run the race of faith to the finish, there are certain things we need to do.

1. Throw Off Everything that Hinders

The verse says we must “lay aside every weight or burden.” This signifies anything which will be an impediment or hindrance in running the race. When running a race, almost anything that adds weight to the runner is a hindrance.

Have you ever seen any athletes competing in their jeans? Or carrying a backpack? No! Not even a bottle of water. They have to be comfortable in what they’re wearing so that they will be in their best, optimal performance.

In the same way, we must get rid of various burdens which delay and impede our spiritual course, which includes:

  • The love of this present life
  • The pleasure of this world and worldly cares
  • The lust of the flesh
  • Riches and honor

These are the same things that John warned us about in 1 John 2:16. This is not to say that we should not enjoy our borrowed time on earth. God wants us to enjoy His blessings but we must resist the notion that happiness is found on the things of this world. We always need to keep in mind that everything in this world is temporary and will soon pass away.

Our priority is to further the works of the Lord and use all the resources He has given us, including our life, for His purpose, and greater glory. Christians are to occupy while waiting for the Lord, our Savior to come back for the church (Titus 2:13).

2. Avoid the Sin that Easily Ensnares Us

Sin is the heaviest burden that impedes us and that is why we are warned to guard against any form of sin. Sin distracts us, sin can hold us back, and most importantly, sin will separate us from God (Isaiah 59:2).

While not naming any specific sin, the writer was probably referring to the sin of unbelief. It is the sin of unbelief that had kept Israel out of the Promised Land, and unbelief hinders us from entering our spiritual inheritance in Christ.

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3. Live a Life of Discipline

The writer of Hebrews is appealing to us to take all the necessary steps of self-discipline and deal with any areas of our lives that could hinder our spiritual progress. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 that an athlete must be disciplined if he is to win the prize.

Discipline means giving up the good and the better for the best. The athlete must watch his diet. There is nothing wrong with food or fun, but if they interfere with your highest goals then they are hindrances and not “helps.”

Also, when running the race of faith, we must disentangle ourselves from all impediments. In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he charged him to pass on to other faithful believers everything he taught him. At the same time, he encouraged his “son in the faith” to endure hardship as a soldier of Jesus Christ and to not get tied up with the affairs of this life to please his commanding officer (2 Timothy 2:1-4).

4. Run the Race with Endurance

What does it mean to run the race of faith with endurance or perseverance? How do we do it? To run the race with endurance is to run the race to the end. It involves determination, commitment, and refuses to be deflected.

We often hear the phrase, “no guts, no glory,” or “no pain, no gain,” which simply means you cannot achieve success without hard work and struggle. In running the race of faith, we need to push through and push hard if we want to win. Despite all the obstacles and distractions we may have to face along the way, we need to keep going and rely on the Lord to give us the strength (Philippians 4:13).

5. Run the Race Marked Out for Us

When Paul addressed the church elders at Ephesus, he told them how he has been faithfully serving the Lord by proclaiming to them the Gospel of Jesus Christ despite his persecution in the hands of the Jews. He pictured himself as a runner who had a race to finish, and nothing would keep him from finishing the race with joy.

“But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).

Let Us Run the Race Marked Out For Us

In this passage, Paul speaks of “my race” – he had his race to run and we have our own. Hebrews 12:1c says we are to run the race that is “set before us.” In other translations, it says, “let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

There is a race marked out for every believer. We are in a race, and this race has been “set before us.” The point here is that God has mapped out a specific, prescribed course for each of us that we must follow. We are not competing with others but we strive to excel up to our potential in this lifestyle of Christian conquest.

6. Look Unto Jesus, the Author, and Finisher of Our Faith

Looking unto Jesus involves looking away from someone or something else and directing our focus unto Jesus. The NIV translates this beautifully as “fixing our eyes on Jesus.”

We cannot be looking at two things at the same time. If we want to finish the race, we need to look away from anything that could distract us and have our eyes locked on Jesus. We are not to look at the mistakes or sins committed by other Christians, especially our church leaders, and use them as an excuse to quit.

As we run the race, Jesus has to be our focus, our inspiration, and our example; He remains to be the ultimate example of Christian obedience and endurance. Jesus is not only the author but also the finisher of our faith. He started His work in us and He promised to complete it until the day of His return (Philippians 1:6).

Jesus Endured the Cross for Our Sake

Hebrews 12:2b says, “Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross …” Jesus did not regard the cross itself as a joy, but He was able to look past the horror of the cross for the joy that is beyond it. Jesus knew that His suffering and death would result in the reconciliation of God with man.

One of the prominent elements of the torture of the cross was its extreme shame. Death by crucifixion was the most despised form of death in the Roman Empire, reserved for the worst offenders. Jesus did not welcome this shame – He despised it. Yet He endured through it to victory.

Anytime you are tempted to give up because of the trials and difficulties that you are going through, think about what the Lord Jesus had to endure for your sake. “Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:3 NIV).

How to Run the Race of Faith

From Crucifixion to Glorification

What was the result of Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross? Salvation became available to everyone who believes (John 3:16) and Jesus was exalted and seated at the right hand of the throne of God. This highlights the triumph of the victory of Christ over death.

People often ask, “If Jesus had already won the victory, why do Christians need to suffer?” As children of God, we are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. And if we suffer with Him, we will also be glorified with Him (Romans 8:17).

Peter said, “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad – for these trials make you partners with Christ in His suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing His glory when it is revealed to all the world” (1 Peter 4:12-13 NLT).

Closing Words

In running the race of faith, we should look back upon the past champions of faith from the Old Testament as they can be a source of encouragement. Then, we must look forward as we run the race and do certain things to pursue the course.

Negatively, we are to strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up; and positively, we are to keep our eyes on Jesus.

The exhortation to “look” unto Jesus is the ground for this anticipatory victory view of the triumphant Lord of glory who finished His course. We look unto Jesus in contemplation, in considering Him as the conqueror of adversity and suffering, and as the exemplar par excellence for spiritual vision.

Since Christ is the “champion who initiates and perfects our faith,” trusting Him releases His power in our lives. As we see Him in the Word and yield to His Spirit, He increases our faith and enables us to run the race to the finish.

It doesn’t matter how many times we stumble, trip, or fall. Walking or running, limping or stumbling, it does not matter. Fix your eyes on Jesus and finish the race.

At the end of the day, it’s not how you start the race that matters but that you finish and be able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (1 Timothy 4:7-8).


Recommended Resource: Let’s Run!: Running the Race with Faith and Perseverance by Jennifer Hayes Yates

Let’s Run!: Running the Race with Faith and Perseverance by Jennifer Hayes Yates Every race is a challenge.

Hills, valleys, dips, and curves; pain, thirst, weariness, and overwhelm—sometimes it’s just easier to take a seat on the sideline and slip off our running shoes.

But God has inspired us in His Word to run the race with faith and perseverance and to finish well. He gives us examples of others who faced some of the same challenges, yet remained faithful.

Let’s Run! explores the faith chapter of Hebrews by taking us back to the Old Testament and the stories of some ordinary people who faced enormous challenges but managed to stay in the race.

This Bible study will give you not only a look at their lives, but also an opportunity to apply the same principles of faith to your own life, to keep you in the race and running toward the prize.

  • Discover how worship and the Word can help your faith grow.
  • Learn how to apply these principles in your own life, family, and church.
  • Develop a strategy for handling challenges to your faith.
  • Gain a new perspective on church and ministry.

Let’s Run! is a 6-week Bible study which includes weekend devotions to recap the principles learned each week, as well as ideas for group study.

Join Jennifer and be inspired to lace up and get back in the race!

 

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