Summary: We must learn to lay everything aside and renew our fellowship and communion with God. We must “keep our eyes on the prize.” We must keep our eyes fixed on Christ. We must pace ourselves when we run the race of life. Only then can we survive and win.
Have you ever struggled with your faith? Have you ever felt like giving up? If so, the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews has a word for you---don’t! Don’t give up. The road of faith has been compared to a race. The race is not a sprint. It is a marathon. At the end of the race, we will receive the ultimate prize-eternal life in heaven.
The image of a race that the writer of Hebrews used included a stadium filled with the great athletes who had finished their races and who have come to cheer on the new runners. The spectators included Abel, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Enoch, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Moses. They were not perfect, but they depended on God’s strength and power in their lives every day. If we feel that God can’t use us, we must remember that:
Noah was a drunk
Abraham was too old
Isaac was a daydreamer
Jacob was a liar
Leah was ugly
Joseph was abused
Moses was a stutterer
Gideon was afraid
Samson had long hair and was a womanizer
Rahab was a prostitute
Jeremiah and Timothy were too young
David had an affair and was a murderer
Elijah was suicidal
Isaiah preached naked
Jonah ran away from God
Naomi was a widow
Job went bankrupt
Peter denied Christ
The disciples fell asleep while praying
Martha worried about everything
The Samaritan woman was divorced more than once
Zaccheus was too small
Paul was too religious
Timothy had an ulcer
Lazarus was dead!
We do not have any excuses. God can use us to our full potential because we are the messenger and not the message.
The race will not be easy. We will suffer like Jesus did. The promise of a future reward will give us the strength we need to endure the hardships we will face. It is the same promise that gave Jesus the strength he needed to face the cross.
Jesus ran the race of suffering and servanthood because of the joy he could see in the future. He saw the blessing that his suffering on the cross would bring, so he was able to set aside the consideration of the pain and humiliation he would have to endure. When we see the cross correctly, we see that Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. We see that the cross was a milestone on the way to Jesus’ joyful coronation. The writer of Hebrews hoped that we will also be able to withstand our suffering and remain on top with perseverance because we can see the same end result that Jesus did. Jesus knew that he would face hostility, and we will also face hostility and opposition.
The hardships we will face are God’s way of disciplining us. The writer of Hebrews focuses on perseverance in the painful tests of life. Discipline is more than perseverance. It is a common term for raising children through instruction, training and correction. On the road of faith, there will be times where God will teach us and train us and correct us when we disobey him. As a loving parent, God disciplines us for our own good, just like most of our parents disciplined us for our own good.
God’s discipline will prepare us for this opposition. His discipline is motivated by his love for us. His ultimate discipline is for our own good, because the result of his discipline is holiness, a likeness to God. We must not let life’s difficulties get the best of us. We must endure and get our second wind so as to be renewed to continue the race. During the race, we must not look back. Looking back is dangerous. We must stay focused on our objective if we are going to succeed. That is God’s purpose for us.
Our discipline can include facing persecution just like Jesus did. The writer of Hebrews looked into the future and saw that his audience would likely face persecution, and he wanted to prepare them. This also applies to us today. Many of our Christian brothers and sisters face persecution because of their faith. Many of us face criticism or ridicule because of our faith. The writer of Hebrews encouraged his audience to stand up to persecution like the saints who had gone before them, and he also encourages us to stand up to persecution today.
In order to run this race, we have to get rid of excess weight. Just like runners in a real race remove their warm-up jackets before a race, we as Christians must remove anything that hinders our race. This excess weight can be anything from too many irons in the fire, too many distractions, or too many things that suck out our vital energy. When we become distracted, we will be in for a surprise. In order to win the race, all of our human and divine energy must be devoted to the race.