Can you imagine all of us standing together at a starting line, and the gun goes off, and with one big surge, we take off in a sprint. You’re feeling strong, your legs are working well, life is good, the wind is in your face, and you’re moving as fast as you can, and everybody is going with you. But somewhere along the way, you begin to get exhausted and wear out; fatigue sets in. For me, this is probably at the hundred-yard mark. Your legs get heavy, and your side hurts, and it’s not as much fun as when you started the race. People are dropping out. Do you push through? Do you continue despite the strain and the pain? Or do you decide it’s just not worth it?
Mature faith requires us to separate our emotions and feelings from our commitment and dedication.
Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish.”
This passage is a template for sustaining healthy longevity and dedication in our walk with Christ. To run a good race and finish well, we need encouragement and instruction on running well and ending well.
The opening of Hebrews 12, “Therefore, we are surrounded by this huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith,” redirects our attention to Hebrews 11, the All-Star Team of Faith. Take time to read Hebrews 11 today.
At the end of the chapter, it says, “All of these people we have mentioned received God’s approval because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. For God had far better things in mind for us that would also benefit them, for they can’t receive the prize at the end of the race until we finish the race” (Hebrews 11:39-40).
All the people mentioned in Hebrews 11 were all commended for their faith. These people looked forward to a better day, but none of them received what had been promised in their life on earth. These people did not live to see the Kingdom arrive, but Jesus secured their future citizenship in Heaven. And so, they were able to endure suffering. God did not forget or neglect them; “all” were commended for their faith. They maintained their faith because they were not content with the success of the visible world. They kept their faith by continually looking forward to the fulfillment of God’s promises.
What do we need to do to stay dedicated to the Lord and end up on the All-Star Team of Faith?
“Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress.”
What this means is that we let go of the things that slow us down. We put off anything that can trip us up. What are the things that keep you weighted down from spiritual progress? It could be as simple as life is too busy and full that there is no time or energy left to pursue your relationship with Christ. It could be that having your kids going in six different directions with all kinds of extra-curricular activities weigh you down so that there’s no time for spiritual instruction in their lives. It could be the hours wasted in front of a video game or media screen. When you live for Jesus, you no longer live for your agenda, but you now live according to God’s plan.
2 Timothy 2:3 says, “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs – he wants to please his commanding officer.”
May I encourage you to let go of anything ungodly in your life? One of the things that happen when we read the Bible is that it brings us face to face with our shortcomings. When I read scripture, often, I see the ugliness that is in me. Sometimes it’s painful, but it is for my good. The Bible says we must let go of those things (sin) that we know are wrong and weighty. The gentle, loving nudge of the Holy Spirit will point out areas in our lives that are not right (conviction), and we need to take them off and stop carrying them around (repent).
Hebrews 12:1, “Let us run with endurance this race that God has set before us.” Running a good race requires dedication to the race until we cross the finish line.
Down through the ages, greatness has often been defined by the ability to persevere and overcome obstacles. Here are some illustrations of people who overcame obstacles:
- Did you know a memo came from MGM shortly after Fred Astaire took his first screen test? And here is the message: “Can’t act, slightly bald, can dance a little.”
- Someone said of Vince Lombardi. “He possesses minimal football knowledge.”
- The parents of Enrico Caruso believed his teacher, who said, “He has no voice at all. He just cannot sing.”
- A newspaper once fired Walt Disney for lack of ideas.
- Thomas Edison’s teachers gave up on him, and here was their evaluation: “He is too stupid to accomplish anything.”
- Henry Ford, before he succeeded, failed and went broke five times.
- Beethoven handled the violin awkwardly, and his teacher called him hopeless as a composer.
- Albert Einstein performed so badly in high school courses, except in mathematics, that his teachers encouraged his parents to pull him out of school.
Finishing well the race set before us is more important than how we first started the race.
2 Corinthians 11:25-29 says, “I’ve been in prison. I’ve been flogged. I’ve been exposed to death time and again. Five times I was beaten with 39 lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I’ve been shipwrecked. I’ve had to constantly stay on the move because of being in danger in every city I went to. I’ve been deprived of sleep. I’ve gone without food. I’ve been cold and naked.”
In other words, Paul says, I can testify that I never gave up. None of the hardships had the power to make Paul quit. He had dedication. None of it dissuaded him from pressing on. And none of it quenched his passion for following Christ. Paul says you decide in advance that you’re going to be steadfast and immovable, and you’re going to keep abounding in the work of the Lord, no matter what hardship may come into life.
Mature faith is the ability to make the decision that you are going to keep showing up, serving, and proclaiming the Good News as long as the Lord gives you breath. Because there will be some hard days when you don’t “feel” like it, there will be valleys and mountains. There will be times when God seems distant. There will be times when it appears messy and overwhelming to walk with the Lord. Do not turn back. Keep pressing on.
And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish.
Running the race together!