I’ve done a few races in my time, and training for these races have taken various forms. From just eating an energy bar (and hoping for the best) to full in-depth training for months prior in order to run a half-marathon across beach and sand and through rivers in a penguin suit! That particular training required months of discipline, exercises, stretching, early mornings, getting friends to train with me, and even to run alongside me during the event. Through discipline and encouragement, I succeeded, finished the race, and raised some good money for a great school that was run by our church.
Foot races were a popular sport in the Greco-Roman world. In 1 Corinthians 9:24 and 2 Timothy 4:7, Paul uses the image of a race to illustrate the Christian life. It’s not about winning the race, but about completing it! And when you run a race, especially a long and difficult one, it’s amazing to have support on the side-line and even with you on the race. It encourages you and gives you a boost!
Hebrews 12:1 begins with an image of unbelievable support! The stadium is filled with saints who have already walked by faith as we have just seen in the previous chapter. We are surrounded by them. As we open up the scriptures and read of their lives, and the faithfulness of God to them, we can be encouraged to endure the race ourselves.
We’ve been running this race, however, with a handicap. Sin weighs us down and threatens to stop us from finishing the race (maybe like a penguin suit). Get rid of it! Cast it off! Throw off everything that hinders you, we’re told, and run with perseverance with your eyes fixed on Jesus. Why Jesus? Because he is the finish line. He is the great prize! He is the one who ran the tougher race, a race that required a winner and a champion. He finished it. He endured suffering and the cross in order that we could complete the race. And he now sits at the right hand of God, with the crown of victory on his head. Our victory. This should encourage us. As you run the race, it can be easy to feel discouraged and tired and weary of all life’s burdens and sin, but by keeping your eyes fixed firmly on Jesus you will be reminded that you are running in a race that has already been won for you. What matters most is that each day, you run in the direction of Jesus, daily surrounded by the faithful witness of those who have walked by faith found in His Word and trusting God to use for His glory until you reach that finish line.
- How did Jesus complete the race?
- How will you complete the race?
- Why do you think discipline is important in this passage? If God loves us, why does he discipline us?
- How does being called a child of God make you feel? Why do you think the author wants you to know that?
Father God, thank you that Jesus won the race. Help me to persevere through the trials and temptations and struggles of this life, holding on to Jesus. Thank you that your word encourages me each day. Thank you that you love me enough to discipline me, correct me, rebuke me and to train me in all righteousness. I want to be a child that honours you with all my life. Help me to throw off every sin that weighs me down so that I may finish this race as a godly man/woman in Christ. Amen.