The Christian life is hard work. As followers of Jesus, we are often called to sacrifice our plans, agendas, hopes and desires to meet the needs of others and to serve in ways we had not expected. Sometimes we are even required to suffer for the cause of Christ. As we are stretched beyond our normal capabilities and comfort levels, we can at times become weary and lose heart.
In those times that are hard, discouraging and when you feel like giving up, remind yourself of the truths found in Hebrews 12:1-3. These few verses encourage us to keep our focus on the big picture and to run the race with endurance that has been marked out for us by my Lord.
In the first part of verse one, the writer says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses.” These witnesses are the heroes of faith the writer had just talked about in Hebrews 11. These men and women glorified the Father by running their races with honor in the past. Now, they are cheering us on in the race we are running. When I imagine running before these witnesses and knowing they are cheering me on, I am encouraged and motivated to keep going even when the going gets tough.
The next phrase says for us “to throw off all that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles us.” As we run our race, we are to throw off the daily struggles of sin and the distractions of the world that weigh us down and cause us to get off track.
The writer then encourages us to “run the race with endurance (perseverance) that has been marked out for us.” The only way to endure the hardships, discouragements and pain of our race is to “keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.” When I meditate on these challenges, I often think about the story of Peter walking on the water. Peter asked Jesus to call him out of the boat and to walk on water. With eyes fixed on Jesus, Peter stepped out of the boat and did something no other human has ever done – he walked on water. But, when he took his eyes off of Jesus, and looked around at the winds and the storm raging all around him, he began to sink and cried out to Jesus to save him. The same thing happens to us when we take our eyes off of Jesus. We see the storms of life raging around us and begin to stumble and fall. To run our race with endurance and finish well, we must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.
How does keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus help us in our race? Because He is the “author and perfecter of our faith.” He lived a perfect life and endured the shame and horror of the cross so that we might be forgiven of all our sins and reconciled back to the Father in relationship. He could “endure the cross because of the joy set before Him.” His joy was full because He knew the end result was that He would be the Savior of His people. As a result of His obedience in running the race marked out for Him, He fulfilled the Father’s plan for Him to become the Savior of His people. Now, He is restored to glory at the right hand of the Father and He continually intercedes for us as we run our race.
The Christian life often involves hard work. It requires us to give up whatever endangers our relationship with God and to battle sin in our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit. The only way we can effectively run the race marked out for us by the Lord with endurance is to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. We will stumble and fall if we look away from Him and focus on ourselves or the circumstances that surround us. We should run our race for Jesus, and not ourselves, by always keeping Him in sight. If we will commit to these things, we will run our race well and not become weary or lose heart.