Several times in the Bible, our everyday life in Christ is described as a race. We’re off and running in this marathon, and each sunrise presents new challenges as we hurry along. All the while, we know that God has provided the path we’re supposed to take.
But how exactly can we run this race that is set before us? Thankfully, we’re not left jogging in the dark. The author of Hebrews provides 3 proven ways to keep us on the right track.
Remembering the Cloud of Witnesses
We get our start in the race of life by remembering that we’re not alone:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…” (Hebrews 12:1a)
When ancient sprinters dashed off in their quest for victory and the laurel crown, they often did so in a large arena filled with spectators (much like sporting events today). Peering up into the stands full of billowing clothes and moving people looked somewhat like looking up into the clouds.
And that’s what it’s like for us in our race, too. We’re not the only ones to take this journey. People have run this way before, as Hebrews 11 shows (a chapter that’s often called the “hall of faith”). Our spiritual ancestors, such as Abraham and Noah, answered God’s call and set out on the race set before them. Their example gives us encouragement.
But we don’t have to look back to find “heroes of the faith.” We can find them today—right in the pews and chairs on any given Sunday morning. Christians are meant to make this journey together, and we’re much stronger when we do. Seeing the powerful examples of faithfulness around you can give you the courage you need to charge ahead.
“For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.” (1 Corinthians 4:17)
Sometimes, however, other problems can keep us from running our race, even when the crowd is cheering us on.
Throwing off the Sin that Entangles Us
If we’re to keep chugging along on the right path, we can’t do so if we’re constantly tripping up. The writer of Hebrews describes it this way:
“… let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1b)
In the sporting events of the ancient world, competitors usually ran in a much more “natural” way than athletes do today. Long before the days of special sprinting attire, the clothes of the time either had to be tied up away from the legs or taken off before running. Otherwise, the runner would get tangled up and fall on his face.
Our Christian race isn’t much different. We can’t run very well if we’re bound up in the snares of sinful living. Those things that seem so satisfying in the moment can take our eyes off the prize (as we’ll see), and instead keep us fixated on temporary thrills. But we’re called to a much better path:
“For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13)
Life works best when we follow God’s Word and obey His commands in the Bible. He didn’t give us those commands to trap us, but to free us to run our race with endurance. When we do so, our true goal comes into view.
Looking to Jesus
While we may glance at the crowd of witnesses around us and we may throw off the things that tangle us up, our ultimate encouragement is in the prize that awaits those of us who live by faith:
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)
At the beginning of the race, Jesus may seem far away in the distance. We know of Him through the gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. We’ve heard how He has changed other lives. But our race is still new.
Before long, however, we realize that the prize awaiting us is the Savior of our souls, and He’s not content to just sit and watch us from the finish line. He’s busy working on us as we run the race:
“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10–11)
As we run and keep our eyes on Jesus, God works on us, making us more and more like His Son. Ultimately, He will bring us to our long-awaited reward:
“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)
Run the race that is set before you. But run it with the hope that God wants you to have in Christ.