In many ways I must admit the whole political race with the host of candidates running for the highest office in the United States is somewhat amusing to me. One makes a statement or claim about something and all twenty-five of the others must react to what was said. Wouldn’t it be nice to see one candidate that didn’t react at all to every issue that arose but laid out a clear plan for what they would do if they were president of the United States? We live in a day that is complicated. If one lays out a plan that seems to be what is needed for the economy of this country, but their foreign policy seems confused or downright foolish, it would be crazy to elect them. We are living in a trying world. There are people who want with all their being to destroy this country and everyone in it so that can’t be ignored.
But there are races going on in life that are much more significant for us personally than any political race. In the political realm we can normally wait until one after another destroys themselves with some stupid remark or horribly immoral action. Think of all the people in the past who started off with a bang until things in their hidden life began to become open. Suddenly their political career went down the drain. It would seem obvious that people who are running for such an office would need to keep their moral house clean, but for some reason one can get so caught up in their own importance that they think it will never be found out or that it won’t really matter to the public. But it always does matter.
One of my favorite Scriptures is found in Hebrews 12:1-2 and it is about the most important race anyone can run. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” This is the race of life that determines both our growth, fulfillment, purpose and goal of life. It is the race that if well run will lead to an eternity with the Lord in glory. Notice the first point he made was about the witnesses to this race. Imagine a huge arena and your favorite sporting event going on. The stands are full of people and they have on the colors of the different teams, cheering, laughing and shouting for joy when their favorite team has a good play. That is the scene the writer has in mind when he said, we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses. In this case the witnesses are the people who have lived by faith and served God effectively in life that were discussed in the previous chapter. He told of people like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses and huge crowd that had given their all for God but who went unnamed. He said, these of the ones in the stands shouting for you as you are running the race for God. In this race, none of us are in the stands. We are in the arena as the players. Only those who have lived their lives in faith and have passed from this world to the next are qualified to be in the stands.
What can we do to be effective runners in the race for God and in faith? The Holy Spirit led the writer of Hebrews to say the first thing we needed to do was lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely to us. Some things that hinder us in running the race of faith aren’t sinful. Instead they are just things that take up our time and energy that get in the way of living as God calls us to live. As a boy, I wanted to be able to run faster than some of by brothers or cousins. I would take off my shoes, lay aside anything that seemed to weigh me down and run with all my might. It is this very point being made in a spiritual sense. What are the hindrances in your life to really running the race for the Lord and living by faith? But he also mentions the matters that are sinful which cling to us and hold us back. One can’t run God’s race while living a life of sin. There are different sins that cling to different people. For one it is pornography, for another an immoral relationship, for another it is dishonest dealings with others and for others it is having a lousy attitude with our family. Whatever the weight may be in your life and whatever the sin may be that you find clinging to you, the right answer is to lay it aside now.
Then let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. It in intriguing that he says, “Let us” and not “You” or “I”. Running the race for God is done in a company, a group with companions. It is a matter of fellowship where we help one another to run, to get up when we fall and to encourage each other when we are tired. Run with endurance. The race for God isn’t just a matter of saying a quick prayer asking God to forgive us. It isn’t just being baptized and putting my membership in a church. It is a race that must be run with endurance, with faithfulness. God’s race is never a hundred yard dash. It is a marathon and last a lifetime. Certainly in running the race for God there will be things that get in the way. We will be bumped by other runners. Sometimes we stumble and get discouraged. Often the other runners will disappoint us because of things they do wrong. Our group may let us down. But God’s intention is for us to keep running with endurance. A quitter fails, falls and cannot be a winner in God’s race. Lay aside the things that hinder with fervor, but keep running for God without fail.
Run the race set before you. We don’t all have the same duty, the same race to run. We are gifted by God and called by God to different areas, ministries and duties in his kingdom. Run the race God calls you to run and don’t try to run someone else’s race.
In order to be the winner in the race of faith, it is imperative to keep your eyes on Jesus who founded the race and has perfected it for us to run. He is the pattern. Our goal is to be more like Him every day. Think of what it means to keep our eyes set on Jesus who started the race, keeps it going and will be there at the finish line to receive each of us with a crown. If our eyes are on Him they won’t be on what every other runner is doing or failing to do all the time. We won’t be concerned about what is going on in the stands. When some player on a team looks up in the stands and makes motions for them to clap or scream it shouts the message that his mind is in the wrong place. Play the game and get your head out of the stands. In running the race for the Lord, we far too often get focused on what all is happening in the world around us and what awful things are happening in that world. We seem to have completely forgotten that God said he is the one who raises up rulers and leaders and he is the one who takes them down. Often Israel during the Old Testament days was frustrated with the runners of places like Babylon or Assyria and God would remind them that they were but tools in his hand that he raised up and would take down in his time.
Christians running the race who are constantly complaining about the world they face, have their eyes set on the wrong one. The one who started the race, upholds and will end it in his time is Jesus. Keep your eyes on him and run with endurance.