“Let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2.
Running is one of the most basic forms of human exercise and competition. From the time we are children, we love to see who can run the fastest, or who can run the longest distance. The ancient Greeks built the Olympic games around running and other similar tests of physical strength and endurance. As long as humans have been able to run, we have challenged each other to races.
There are two basic types of footraces: sprints and long-distance racing. Sprints are short races in which the runners run a short distance at the fastest speed they can go. These races are very exciting and fun to watch and are even more fun to participate in. The runners exert the maximum amount of energy the can muster over a short distance. In most cases, the sprint is over in just a few seconds.
Long-distance races are a different story. In these races, the runners must run courses of several miles. The pace of the race is much slower; the runner must be able to run at a certain pace while having enough endurance to sustain the whole race. In such races mental conditioning is just as critical to success as physical conditioning is. As the miles keep adding up, the runner’s body will experience pain and severe discomfort as he keeps trudging along, and at times, the runner’s will to keep going is the only motivation he may have to keep moving.
Life is a long-distance race. It is the ultimate marathon; a test of will and endurance like none other.
The author of Hebrews, who is still to this day unknown, gives us advice about how we are to condition ourselves for life’s race. We are to set aside any weight or burden that will slow us down, as well as the sin that will trip us up. In the ancient Greek Olympics, when runners would race, they would do so in the nude. The idea was that clothing would slow them down and interfere with their running, so they elected to run naked and avoid any possible interference. For that same reason, modern-day runners usually wear very tight-fitting clothing to minimize potential interference and to maximize their speed, since running naked is not as socially acceptable now as it was in ancient Greece. Spiritually speaking, we must do the same when we step to the line to run the race of life. We must strip our spirits naked of anything that will slow us down or hold us back, and we must put aside the sins that will cause us to fall during the race.
We must run life’s race with endurance. This race is not a short sprint in which we can lay everything on the line and use all our strength for just a short period of time. This race is one in which we must figure out how to keep going forward, while still keeping some energy in the tank for the future. Just as the long-distance runner must rely on his mental conditioning to get him through the pain of the race, we must rely on Christ and our spiritual stamina to sustain us. There will be plenty of times in which we do not think we can continue forward. At times, even our will to keep going will not be enough motivation to do so. It is during these times in which we must lean on Christ. He will be the only support we have. It is only because of Christ that we can make it through those trials and through those valleys, and keep moving forward.
We must keep our eyes on Jesus during the race. There will be plenty of obstacles and distractions in life’s race, but we will be able to overcome and avoid them if we focus on Christ. He is the source of our faith, and He is the one who makes our faith complete. He is the one who will give us the strength and endurance when we need it, He is the one who will get us through the moments when our strength and minds fail us and we think we cannot go on, and He is the one who will be waiting for us with open arms when we cross the finish line. We must keep our eyes on Him, and let Him guide us through our race. Even when we trip and fall, He will be there to pick us up and help us back on our way. When we do not know where to go, He will be there to guide us. When we feel as though we have no one to count on, He will be by our side. Though we may be afraid because we not know what lies around the next bend in the road, Christ will give us the confidence to keep moving forward, and to always keep moving forward into whatever life throws at us.
Life is a tough race; it is not one for the faint of heart. It is only through Christ that we are able to get through it. Without Him, we could not even step up to the starting line. Without Him, we would be too burdened and weighed down by our sins to run. Without Him, we would not have the spiritual wherewithal to keep going on. Without Him, we would have no one to focus on, no one to pick us up when we fall, and no one to give us the faith to keep going. The race of life is unique– the order in which we cross the finish line doesn’t matter, because we all will at some time or another. What really matters is how we run the race. When we realize we cannot do it on our own without Christ. When we realize that we need Christ to run life’s race, that’s when we win the race. Crossing the finish line is then just a formality.