The Spiritual Race
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.Hebrews 12:1–3
I recently attended a running event for children as young as five years old. The event was held behind an elementary school and required the runners to follow a course in and around a corn field. The kids ran different distances based on their age. Upon seeing the course, I immediately began to wonder how the organizers could get a big group of kids so young to run more than half a mile without wandering off the course. Getting kids this young to stay on task can be a bit like herding cats.
The solution for this problem was to select an adult volunteer to run the course as a “rabbit.” The “rabbit” runs the course in front of the kids wearing a fluorescent jacket that helps the kids locate the “rabbit” as they run. The kids follow the “rabbit,” safe in knowing that the “rabbit” knows the course and will guide them to the finish line. None of this works, of course, if the “rabbit” runs far ahead of the kids. The “rabbit” cannot get too far ahead of the kids lest they lose their way.
Believers know they are running a spiritual race prepared for them by God and that they must set aside habits, thoughts, and relationships that make it hard for them to run their race. Even when a believer sets aside these weights, though, the road to victory remains difficult and, sometimes, discouraging. The encouragement to run with perseverance ought to remind believers that the enemy uses difficulty and discouragement to suggest that the believer has wandered off course.
Like kids focusing on following the “rabbit” believers must focus on following Jesus if they hope to finish their spiritual race victoriously. Believers must encourage themselves and others with the knowledge that the pioneer and perfecter of faith remains ever close to those that follow him and his victory secures theirs as well. Like the “rabbit,” Jesus sets the perfect pace for those who believe. He never risks the loss of any by pushing the pace too hard for those that follow, and he never settles for mediocrity by setting a pace that does not force his followers to grow in faith.
Give thanks to God today for the greatness of his gospel in Jesus Christ! Be encouraged today by knowing that the one you follow is never far from you and that, in his strength, you can finish the race God has prepared for you.
Prayer: Lord, we acknowledge there are times we behave as though we are running the race of life alone. We struggle with fear and allow our circumstances to fool us into thinking you are not there. Please, we pray, reveal the nearness of your presence to us today that we might be strengthened and encouraged to run our race with the endurance of Christ.