Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, 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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Have you ever been in a race before, whether it was competitive or just for fun? Or even a hike with an awesome destination at the end? You start out with lots of excitement and energy but somewhere along the way, you begin to get tired and lose steam. What started out as smoothly, begins to get rough as you start taking it one step at a time. Along the way in life, we can feel like this too. This life has its ups and downs and twist and turns, but we keep walking forward in faith.
When we encounter times where walking forward is difficult, remember, just like the sidelines of a race, we too have a crowd cheering us on. We can look to those who have gone before us in faith. We can look ahead and see how they have made it through the finish line and know that we can too. Isn’t it amazing how the example of others can give us hope and spur us on to keep going? We have our friends, family and community of believers to rally around us and encourage us.
As I read this section of the book of Hebrews, I almost can picture the author like the coach who is giving us a pep talk halfway through our race. He says, “You can do it! Keep going and don’t let anything get in your way of finishing the work God is doing in you through faith.”
So how do we keep from getting off track? The coach in Hebrews gives us three ways:
- Throw off, get rid of, actively get away from all the things in your life that keep you from living the life God has for you. Maybe you are carrying a heavy burden that you need to give to the Lord because it is slowing you down and making you weary. Maybe you are stuck in a trap of sin that has entangled you. Sometimes something as small as anger or bitterness toward someone can take root like a vine across our path and cause us to stumble. This where we need to do a heart check. What’s been creeping in that shouldn’t be there? Bitterness, doubt, fear, pride? All of these things keep us focused in the wrong place (ourselves and our present circumstances).
- Keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, looking always toward him. He is waiting at the finish line and is the one who will help us get there. He knows what it is like to face trials and difficulties in this life and yet he ran the race with joy. He can help you too! If you are running a race and you start looking to the right or the left instead of in front of you, you will either start running in that direction or you may end up flat on your face. Either way, you won’t get to where you are supposed to be. The best way to stay focused on the finish line is by staying close to Jesus in prayer and by reading God’s word.
- We don’t just have the people who have gone before us, but we have the community of believers that we need to embrace and to encourage us. Seek to be be surrounded by those who live also by faith whether through a small community group at your church or with a couple of close friends. Allow them to run alongside you. “Two are better than one, for if one falls, they can pick the other up.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)
We each have a different path to run, a different story God is working out, but we all have the same finish line. The one that ends in the arms of the Father. Jesus is there to guide us through this life toward the finish line. He knows the way to true life, because He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.