Discover more from Heaven On Wheels
Advent: “Let us run with endurance the race…”
Through January 6, I’ll be posting devotionals with an Advent and Epiphany theme to focus our minds on the nativity of Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas!
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.”
Hebrews 12:1-2 NLT
I love the analogy, here in Hebrews 12 and other parts of the New Testament, of our lives of faith being a race. For a few years in my earlier life, I ran in 5K races. I didn’t particularly enjoy them; rather, I endured the pain and looked forward to the end of the race. Even at the short distance of 3.1 miles, I was usually in agony by the end of the run. It was with not a little irony that I found out while researching today’s devotional that the Greek word for “race” is agona, meaning conflict or a struggle.
These two verses are packed with wonderful imagery. “Surrounded by a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith” brings to mind a mental picture of a heavenly cheering section exhorting us on in our race. Those cheering for us include saints and martyrs who existed after the writing of Hebrews, plus those named in Hebrews 11 (Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Joseph, Esau, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and “all the prophets”).
To run the race with speed and grace, we strip down to the running shorts and singlet of our faith — a life without sin. Sin is to be avoided for another reason; it can trip us up in our faith journey as easily as a loose stone or pothole on a running path can break our confident stride and drop us to our knees.
No matter how long or short our God-given lives are, we are to approach them with endurance. While running those 5Ks, I always found it helpful to focus on someone who obviously had more skill and speed than I did. I’d pick someone ahead of me and try my hardest to keep up with them. The writer of Hebrews (possibly Paul) gave us the perfect forerunner to follow in the race — Jesus, “the champion who initiates and perfects our faith”!
For us, Jesus endured numerous shames during the crucifixion; an accusation of blasphemy, mockery, beatings, being forced to wear a crown and robe as “King of the Jews”, and even more mockery as He prayed on the cross. He endured it all by keeping focus on the joy at the end of the race — sitting at the right hand of the Father forever.
When I finished a 5K, I was always ridiculously happy as the bodily pain was subsiding, my pounding heart was slowing down, my aching lungs were able to finally able to fill with air, and I knew I was going to get a reward — perhaps a slap on the back from a friend, a cold drink of water, and even a cheesy participation ribbon. All of those “rewards” are trifling compared with finishing God’s race and being rewarded with eternal life!
During this holiday season and throughout our lives as Christians, let’s always keep in mind working through our pain with endurance to the finish line and our reward.
Heaven On Wheels Daily Prayer:
I thank You, Heavenly Father, for Your grace and mercy in sending us the Lord Jesus Christ who loves me, died for me, and who started and completes my faith. Help me to take my eyes from the distractions that keep me from Him, and instead focus my gaze on Him. Thank You for the example of His life and His patient endurance on the Cross. Make me more like Him every day. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN.