Running Your Race This Year

“Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us…” Hebrews 12:1

I shared this verse last week and left it open ended. I wanted you to think about it and to wonder what it meant. This is a verse that has come up many times to me last year. Different parts of it at various times. It wasn’t until my devotions led me to Hebrews 12 that I fully grasped it. All of the lessons from the previous chapter culminating into a better understanding of it.

Who are the witnesses it refers to? Is it angels or people? The heavenly hosts? Notice that the first word says, “Therefore”. This is the conclusion to a thought. The chapter before talks about a group of men and women who were noted for their great faith. Hebrews 11 is often referred to the “Great Hall of Faith”, similar to what you’d think of regarding a sports hall of fame. The difference is that in human eyes, most of these people didn’t see their big earthly dreams or trophies get handed to them. In fact, it says that “These all died in faith without having received the promises, but they saw them from a distance, greeted them, and confessed that they were foreign and temporary residents of the earth” Hebrews 11:13.

It reminds me of the stories you hear of missionaries working for decades and seeing only a couple people choose Jesus. They retire or pass away. Then, those few converts lead a multitude to Jesus, having a flourishing ministry. The original missionary may have felt like their work didn’t do much, meanwhile, it was the beginning of an incredible legacy, one they would never personally receive the praise for.

That can sound completely deflating and discouraging. Why would God put a promise on their heart that would never be fulfilled?

Note that it says in Hebrews 11:13 that they “confessed they were foreign and temporary residents of the earth”. Something happened through their journey of pursuing these promises. A switch took place. Their striving changed from the hope of the promises, to the hope of eternal life with God. Instead of looking forward to the praise they would receive from people, they looked to the praise they would receive from the King, the Messiah, God Himself. They didn’t focus on their earthly inheritance. They turned to a heavenly one.

“If they were thinking about where they came from, they would have had an opportunity to return. But they now desire a better place – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” Hebrews 11:15-16

They could have given up on their dreams. They could have walked away from God. But because their pursuit changed and their faith grew stronger, they now enjoy the reward of living in Zion, God’s perfected created city that He resides in.

Why do I tell you this and how does it relate to Hebrews 12:1? You see, the people of great faith mentioned in Hebrews 11 are the ones cheering YOU on in your race for Christ. They have suffered like Jesus suffered. They went through incredible difficulties. Yet, they finished their race and are now cheering you on to “keep your eyes on Jesus” and successfully complete your race as well. A race that leads you to the eternal Zion, the beautiful city of God.

The race takes grit. It takes endurance. There is suffering and sore muscles. You’ll get tired and weak. You’ll want to quit. That’s why it is so important to throw off any unnecessary things that might weigh and slow you down. Are there sins you’re doing or holding onto that are keeping you from running well? Are there good things that are distracting you from where your focus should be?

The “weights” mentioned in Hebrews 12:1 is likened to a heavy robe. In order to run with endurance, you can’t carry a heavy robe on your back. The weight will wear you out. You need to shed the cloak so that you’re light enough to run well. Weights can be good things. They can be ministries, people, jobs, entertainment, social gatherings, etc. Good things aren’t bad, but too many can be a deterrence. It can be too much of a distraction. I picture this part like someone slowing down to a jog and looking around at the trees, birds, and view around them, rather than setting a better pace and focusing on what’s in front of them. By looking around, you cause your thoughts to wander and think about everything you’re looking at. If you’re focused ahead, your goal will stay at the forefront of your mind. You’ll push yourself a little harder. You’ll want to win. You’ll do whatever it takes.

Your focus in the forefront of the race of life should be Jesus. The people cheering you on the sidelines will motivate you to keep going because you know they’ve endured and won their race, so you can too. They’ll be like coaches showing you the way. But your eyes must be focused on Jesus, the ultimate prize. The King standing at the end of the line holding your reward. The key to your home in His city. The crown of victory. Your joy.

As we start 2021, let’s set our goals to be focused on what Jesus wants for us this year. Let’s take time to pray about what goals He has for us. Let’s make reading the Bible our top priority. Spending time with our coach, Jesus, every day to prepare for what comes at us. Let’s train our bodies, minds, souls, and spirits, to live disciplined lives, focused on the end prize.

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