RUNNING THE RACE
Hebrews 12:1-3 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 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 is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
Whether we know it or not; whether we want to be or not; whether we care or not, all human beings that inhabit the earth are in a race. We were entered into this race contest at birth. We had nothing to do with it; it was inherent with being given life on earth. The race was inaugurated the day mankind was created. The rules were established from the beginning of time. The rules are the same for all men and women. The distance is the same; it is for the lifetime of each runner. Each runner will receive a just reward at the end of his or her race. The race was designed by our Creator, and will be judged by His Son, Jesus Christ. All must run. It is the most important race you will ever run. It is a race of life (or death), and we are the contestants.
As we run, encouraging cheers urge us on. Symbolically, they are the cheers of those that have finished the course and have won their individual races. The word "wherefore," which begins this chapter of the letter to the Hebrew Christians, tells us that the faithful children of God referred to in the previous chapter are those that fill the bleachers and are observing our race. These represent the cloud of witnesses that are watching us run. A crown of eternal life awaits those that win, and a shroud of eternal death is the reward of those that lose. In this race of life (or death), it can truly be said that winning is everything! Not only must we properly prepare for it, but we must also run the race with persevering faith.
Since this race is so vital to how we spend eternity, we must prepare in order to give our best effort to win. How do we prepare? The writer says, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin, which doth so easily beset us. A backpack, heavy shoes, or too much clothing are all weighty things that would keep a runner from racing to the best of his or her ability. There are also "weights" that are a hindrances in running the race of life. In this race it is necessary that our eyes be fixed on the finish line, and the prize that awaits, which is a crown of life - eternal life in heaven. The impediment that stands in our way of victory is the distraction of the world around us. The weights of life must be cast off and laid aside. Worldliness is a heavy burden. It is not possible to carry it over the finish line and into heaven. Cares of the world must be limited to those things that are necessary to sustain life on earth. An inordinate concern for things of the world is, not only a distraction from our goal, but it is also excess weight that will not allow us to run, and complete, the race of life. Christians must lay aside every weight that may hinder them in their race toward their heavenly home.
In our race for life, in every step we take, at every turn we make, and at the top of every hill we climb, we will find the temptation of sin. It is ever present; it is constantly telling us to stop running and to indulge in the pleasures of this world. (S)in, which doth so easily beset us, are those sins to which we are the most apt to commit. Satan never tries to seduce us with sins that never tempt us, but with those, which are more alluring to our senses - those that are the hardest for us to overcome. Every Christian needs to ward off sin with every bit of spiritual armor that God has given them. Allowed to do so, sin will easily beset us, distract us from the goal toward which we are running, cause us to give in to the temptations of the world, and fail to finish the Christian race toward eternal life. Like the apostle Paul said, forget those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:13b-14).
Not only must we lay aside the weight of sin, in order to run the race of life successfully, but we must also run with patience the race that is set before us. The race course is long. It is filled with every pothole and stumbling block that life can place in front of us. In life there will be many mountains to climb, arid deserts to cross, and dangerous streams to ford. The patience that is necessary to complete the race is that of perseverance - never giving up - continuing on regardless of life's obstacles.
Where do we find this enduring patience? It is found by looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. In Him we find our example of patience. Read of His life in the gospel messages of the New Testament; notice, as a human being, He faced the same temptations as we do, without giving in to them; notice all the trials and tribulations He faced and overcame; notice the pain and agony He suffered at the hands of Jewish and Roman officials, and yet, undeterred, He faithfully continued to submit to the will of God, instead of the will of mankind. He ran the race of life, finished the course, and won the prize of eternal life. He endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. We all need persevering patience in our race of life, and what a great example we have in Jesus!
Always keep this in mind as we run the race of life. Jesus endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself. All the verbal and physical abuse rendered in opposition to Him, did not deter Him from faithfully running His race of life while on earth. No doubt He had the power to defeat all opposition without suffering at their hands. Yet He did not use His omniscient power in His defense. Had he done so, He could not have been our example of persevering patience. He overcame the world using the same human powers of righteousness that all Christians possess - no more, and no less.
As we run the race of life, let us always keep in mind that God's faithful children are cheering us on; encouraging us to never give up. And lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds,because of the trials and tribulations of the world, and the weight of its opposition, always look to Jesus Christ. He overcame them as our example; He overcame them as proof that we can also overcome all opposition the world places before us. He is our example. He is waiting at the finish line. Fix your eyes on Him; run toward Him; He is waiting with a crown of life, for all that run the race before us, with patience and determination to gain eternal life in heaven.