What comes to mind when you think about running a race?
Some of you might think, "Awesome, where do I sign up."
Others, "Are you crazy, I'd rather do anything but run." or, "Do I have too?"
We may wonder, "Who else is running? Depending on who is, I might be there or I might not."
God describes the Christian life experience like a race. It is an accurate description, especially those of us who have been running with Jesus for a few decades or more. Just like a race, it is exciting (at first), enjoyable (at times), hard (almost always), long (our entire life once we say "Yes" to Jesus). Looking at just a few of these adjectives, why would anyone want to run this race? Why would anyone not want to run this race? So many have stalled out and pushed Jesus to a side focus of their life. Some only call out to Jesus when they are in a crisis. Others have quit the race, hoping that when they die Jesus will still be gracious to them. Others keep going in the race, sometimes running, other times walking, other times clinging to Jesus as they crawl.
I am so glad that the Author of Hebrews gives some encouraging words to never give up on this race with Jesus, no matter how hard life gets.
"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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Heb 12:1-3
One encouragement I want to highlight is "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses."
Many read this rather quickly and jump to the conclusion that all living Christians are living their lives on a massive football field and the stands are filled with all the Christians who have died cheering us on. But, a careful read and study of this passage, it does not paint this picture. We have to look at the word,"Therefore," which points us back to chapter 11, the great hall of fame of the faithful. Most Biblical scholars understand that what is surrounding us living Christians, who are seeking to run this adventurous race, is the legacy of these faithful and forgiven followers. So, when we are running the race we need to be remembering how God used these normal, average humans who are just like you and me. We need to re-read about these fellow citizens of heaven. We need to let their example encourage us, motivate us, inspire us to keep on running. Maybe pick one of these people each week to read, re-read, think about, talk about and learn from. I have been re-studying Abel who followed his parents teaching about how to get right with God regularly through blood sacrifice and how his shortened life is still preaching to all of us today. Why did Abel trust and following his parent's instructions about the most important thing in life and Cain did not? Why did Abel want to get right with God? Why did Abel desire to be close with God? Why did Cain ignore his parent's instruction on how to get right with God? Why did Cain give up on this race? What temptations were more attractive to him than walking with the Creator of the Universe? How many of us have sought to be like Cain by trying to create a new way to get right with God?
God reveals to us through this, that Cain is the father of all other religions and philosophies that are human-made to get right with God. How do we lovingly walk with others who have chosen these human ways? How will Jesus use us to talk about these things with them? Jesus is calling you to these safe and honest conversations that determine peoples' eternal destiny.
Maybe each week, pick one of these people in chapter 11.
Read their story in the OT.
Talk about them with a few friends; Christians and not yet Christians. See how God will inspire your race.
See how God will use you to inspire other people to keep running or even to join this awesome race.
Seeking to keep running,
Pastor Chris Reinertson enjoys all sports, especially those involving a ball. He loves to hang out with people and challenge them to be Jesus REVolutionizers.