Winning the Race
The university I attended required that we run three miles under a certain time every semester in order to pass our physical education requirement. Unfortunately for me, running is near the bottom of exercise options when picking favorites.
I really, really don’t like it. However, I noticed something interesting when I don’t focus on the running. During one semester, the university held an all-school “fun” run for everyone to do their 3 miles at the same time. Running in that group made it so much easier and it was my fastest run of my college career. The distraction made the run so much easier.
We are all in a spiritual race, running to win the prize of the upward call in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14). Thankfully, in this race, we are not left to figure it out on our own. God gives us a blueprint on how to run. In Hebrews 12:1-2, God provides three easy steps leading to a successful race. “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 the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
First, we must lay aside any weight and sin. Any successful runner removes excess weight that could slow them down. Look at how little clothing an Olympic runner wears when in the race. And what they do wear is a very light-weight material as they remove even an extra ounce of weight. We too, must evaluate what is slowing us down in life. Are distractions or unimportant areas in our lives producing extra weight, making it harder to run? Or are we getting tangled up in sin that trips us? The Greek word for lay aside provides a great visual for understanding. It not only means to take something off or set it down, but to also push it as far away from us as possible.
Second, we must run with endurance. Endurance often produces a negative response when heard. We don’t like to endure; we like to enjoy what we are doing. But in looking at the Greek work for endure, one scholar defines this is “staying at one’s post”. When given an assignment by God, it is important to see it through to completion. We must not abandon our race in the middle of the run.
Third, we keep our focus on Jesus. Just like the race from my college days, when we focus on something other than the race, it is so much easier. As we deal with this race of life, focusing on Jesus keeps our perspective in alignment and allows us to focus on the important and not just the urgent. Jesus is the one who bore all our sin and sickness and provided the way for us to have eternal life. Our gaze is on the solution, our salvation, instead of the problem which keeps everything in its proper perspective. That produces the incentive to stay in the race.
Whatever race you are currently running, keep these three steps in mind and you will finish well!