The theme of this website, you might say, is "going on" in the Christian life. Moving forward. Persevering in the face of hardships and our own inner inertia. A host of things conspire against us to distract and discourage us from persevering in our walk with Christ. This is perhaps why I love Heb. 12:1-3 so much. It will not surprise you that this was the text for my morning devotional.
In chapter 11 (as you all know), we read of great men and women of faith who went the distance. They endured. Now it's our turn. Some were great people. Most weren't. All were flawed. And what kept them all going was not so much their great faith as their faith in a great God. (I know these are trite and cliche-ish musings, but they are true.) And now, in Heb. 12:1, we are immediately plunged into a powerful metaphor designed to shake us out of our complacency and drive us forward. Frankly, this passage is one reason I love endurance racing so much. Five truths come to mind, and I think I have just enough time to mention them before leaving for the airport.
1. The Christian life is a gruelling race. As I said on Tuesday, we're in the Roman arena. It's intense. It's challenging. It's demanding. Sometimes it's agonizing. Marathoning demands the utmost in self-discipline, determination, and perseverance. It takes all you've got. It's not a stroll. It's a race to the finish. The imperative in our passage is "Keep on running!!!" An occasional jog will not do. We have to become committed runners. This weekend's marathon will remind me again that, spiritually speaking, I'm in the race of my life.
2. The race is "marked out for us." For every marathon there is a detailed course map telling you where to go and how to get to the finish line. I find it so encouraging to know that my spiritual race is already marked out for me by God. He has prepared the way for me, for my good and his glory. Furthermore, I can't run anyone else's race. I can't be so preoccupied with the performance of others that I lose focus and stumble. As someone has said: in the race of faith, we're not judges. We're runners. We're competing only with ourselves.
3. The race has been successfully run by others -- those in chapter 11 who lived and died in faith. They're now saying to us, "We've finished the race, and you can too." They are surrounding us with their encouragement and applause. "It can be done! By faith it can be done!" Yes, even my Becky is doing that.
4. The race requires -- boy oh boy does it require! -- discipline. We are to run with hupomonē -- perseverance, endurance, spiritual staying power. And so we need to throw off encumbrances -- anything that would trip us up or distract us. (Yes, I've been obsessing about what to wear on a hot and windy day in Fort Worth. Probably a singlet and light weight shorts.) "Throw it off," says verse 1. Deal decisively with the sin that so easily besets you.
5. Finally, the race has been run by Jesus himself. He is our pioneer, our trailblazer, the very designer of the race. I like to think of him as the pacesetter who's already run the race and knows the course inside and out.
Jesus alone brings our race to ultimate completion. Victory is a gift we humbly and thankfully receive from his hand (see Heb. 13:21: "God works in us what is pleasing to him"). If I finish Sunday's race, God must get all the glory.
It's so inspiring to chase the dawn. I hope that sharing my journey with you will make you cling all the tighter to your own "shred" of hope, pushing you forward not to give up but to keep on grinding until the Pioneer and Perfecter of your faith welcomes you at the finish line.