People journeying to Rio are about to make history. The track and field contestants of the Olympics will call to mind a New Testament image offered to us for the Christian life. We read,
“…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. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him 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 sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)
The scriptures are describing how living our faith is like running a race. One’s talent for competition receives less emphasis than one’s commitment to continue. Endurance is an idea used here to describe both the sacrifice of Jesus and persistence of his followers. We’re to persevere and not to quit the race, no matter how hard it is to run. What helps the disciple to persevere in running the race for God?
We’re helped in our perseverance by removing from ourselves the weight of our sin.
We’re helped in our perseverance by keeping our focus on Jesus.
We’re helped in our perseverance by remembering all that the Lord suffered for us.
But we’re also helped by acknowledging those who observe us. “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….” (Hebrews 12:1) While we struggle, others watch to see if we will persevere. While we struggle, some may bring the encouragement we need in order to persevere.
One of the witnesses watching William Wilberforce was John Wesley. William Wilberforce worked for the end of slavery in England, and the battle seemed unending. Days before his death John Wesley wrote to Wilberforce in 1791. “But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them stronger than God? O be not weary of well-doing! Go on, in the name of God and in the power of His might, till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanish away before it.” After John Wesley’s death, forty two years would pass before the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. God enabled Wilberforce to continue on behalf of others, on behalf of people he would never meet. What amazing patience this Godly man exemplified! He truly ran the race.
It may take a long time for us to see God use us, to see God answer our prayers. The Bible promises, “…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6) God is truly the one at work in us. We must be willing to let Him continue to use us, no matter how long it may take. We simply must keep running the race.
Pastor Ken Atchison
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com