Every individual Christian is running a race.
Hebrews 11:39 – 12:1 “And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. 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.”
Enrolled in School and in the Race
When most of us think of long races, we think of the marathon. According to tradition, a Greek runner named Pheidippides ran from Marathon to Athens to bring news of the victory over Darius and the Persians. After running the twenty-six miles to bring his report, he supposedly collapsed and died. Today, a “marathon” is long, but the really hardcore runners (the crazy ones) compete in an event called the extreme marathon. They run 156 miles – six marathons in six days. I do good to stay on the treadmill for thirty minutes! The Christian life is an endurance event, not a sprint. It is not about starting; it is about finishing. If we are going to run the race that is set before us in a manner that is pleasing to our Heavenly Coach, we must have a clear understanding of some components of the race.
The Purpose of the Race
First, we see that we run to obtain a good report. The idea of obtaining a good report also implies the possibility of obtaining a bad report. The day is coming when we will stand before the Lord to give an account of our lives. None of us know when that unexpected moment will meet us. I want to be found running, and not walking, standing, or sitting when He comes. Running the race is not optional if we want a good report.
Next, we run to be made perfect. God wants us to grow up and shape up. God never gives us a calling that He does not enable us to fulfill. While it is not possible for us to be sinless, it is God’s intention that we sin less and less and become more like Jesus Christ. “For whom he did foreknow he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29.) That only happens if we accept the challenge to continue running the race.
The Hindrance of Excess Baggage
Third, we run by laying aside every weight that hinders us. You cannot run well if you are weighted down. There are issues, there are relationships, there are activities, and there are attitudes that are not necessarily wrong, but they are still not helpful in running the race. Nothing that keeps you from running the race is worth holding on to, no matter how much you enjoy it. We must be willing to shed our lives of areas of self as well as areas of sin as we run this race.
Fourth, we run by laying aside sin. The Bible is very specific here. It is not talking about sin in general; rather it is singular – one specific, besetting sin that you must lay aside. This sin is singular in nature, but it is habitual in practice. In other words, it is one that you struggle with again and again. Over time, your besetting sin can change. Until I meet the Lord, there will always be a besetting sin that I must lay aside. What is your besetting sin? Lay it down, and confess it before the Lord.
The Participants in the Race
Fifth, we see that we run with others. The Christian race is not an individual event to be run alone. You should seek the company and companionship of other runners, who can help and encourage you along the way. However, if someone refuses to run, it will be impossible for you to keep running and still remain in their company. It is good to have encouragement and fellowship, but do not stop running just because someone else falls out of the race. Keep on!
Sixth, to succeed in this race, we must run with patience. The word here is similar to the word “endurance” in verse two, but it is more involved. It is not just gritting your teeth and hanging on; patience is enduring trials and struggles with a calm and cheerful spirit! That is impossible for man, but it is possible for a Spirit-filled Christian. As believers we are to keep running the race with cheerful endurance.
Running the Race with Determination, or Drop Out.
The fact that you have run well for a long time does not guarantee you will stay in the race. Paul said, “I keep under (literally that means to beat black and blue) my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Corinthians 9:27.) Paul was afraid of being disqualified, and he forced himself to continue running. That is why he was able to tell Timothy that he finished his course. Do not allow pain, struggle, suffering, or conflict with others to cause you to drop out. Instead, focus your eyes on Jesus and keep running.
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