Paul spoke the words of 2 Timothy 4:7 as he sat in a Roman jail, knowing that he was soon to be martyred for the faith. You sense the incredible relief in his spirit as he says, “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day.”
Hebrews 12:1-3 is not only about running the race, but it is about finishing it well.
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, 2 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. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
In Hebrews 12 it says, “Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders.” Paul is using the metaphor of running. “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance.” There’s that “P” word I know that I don’t enjoy very much.
“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
A cross-country team ran on a golf course. In order to do this official had to go out and placing flags on the course to show the runners where they were supposed to run. One color indicated “left turn.” Another color meant “right turn.” Another indicated to the runners to go “straight ahead.”
That was the race marked out in advance for the runners; if they wanted to win a medal, they had to follow the course marked out.
In this Christian life, God has gone before us laying out the flags for our journey. The faith given to us by God himself allows us to run the race God has marked out. Faith in the God who knows your end from your beginning. The God knows all the days of your life. In his great foreknowledge, he has gone ahead of you and planted these flags ahead of you. And the Scripture says, “Run with perseverance the race marked out for you.”
This is one the most difficult parts of the life of faith. The Christian life at times seems unfair. There are times in your race when you will wrestle with thoughts like, “Why does my race seem so tough?” You want to feel sorry for yourself. It will become easy to look at someone else and say, “Boy if I had his or her race to run, no problem. I could handle that. If I had their bank account, I could do that “p-thing”, persevere. What If God had given me a better partner then I could complete this race? For those traveling this journey alone, you may wish God gave you a partner to run alongside you.
When the race gets tough Satan tends to whisper in your ear “It’s okay for you to quit. You don’t have to run with perseverance because God gave you a raw deal. Your course is so much harder than that of other people’s. It ok just quit.” Have you ever felt that way? I know I have. When the going got tough I wanted to just quit going.
But God says, “I want you to run this race. This is what I hold you accountable for. Don’t think about others. You just look at me. And together, we’ll run your race.” On the blog Friday, I have a video designed to inspire you in your race.
Some of you saw the movie Chariots of Fire back in 1981. It was the true story of Eric Liddell, a man who ran for Scotland, after the Olympics and his graduation he returned to North China where he served as a missionary from 1925 to 1943. You may recall that he refused to run on the Sabbath, forfeiting some of the awards he probably would have won in the 1924 Olympics.
Well, there was another scene in that movie that may have appeared like Hollywood fiction, but it was also true. One year before the pivotal event in the movie, Eric Liddell ran in a meet between England, Ireland and Scotland. He ran the 100-, 220-, and 440-yard events.
In the 440, he got off to a bad start. When that gun sounded, there was a lot of shoving to get in front to the inside lane, the advantageous position.
Liddell tangled feet with J. J. Gillies of England and tumbled to the track. He sat there dazed for a moment, not knowing whether he could get up, when the official screamed, “Get up and run!”
He jumped to his feet and took off after the pack, which was now full twenty yards ahead of him. In a quarter mile, that’s a big distance to try to make up. In his unorthodox style of running, he took off after the pack. He pulled into fourth place ten yards behind the leader, J. J. Gillies.
With forty yards to go, he pulled into third place, then second. Right at the tape, he passed Gillies, stuck his chest out, won the race, and collapsed to the track in total exhaustion. Medical personnel had to assist him off the track that day.
An article appearing the next day in The Scotsman newspaper said, “Veterans whose memories take them back thirty-five years and in some cases longer in the history of athletics were unanimous in the opinion that Liddell’s win in the quarter mile was the greatest track performance they had ever seen.“The circumstances in which Liddell won the race made it a performance bordering on the miraculous.
Some of you have been knocked down. Maybe Satan has tripped you up. Perhaps you have made some foolish decisions. Perhaps other people have done you wrong. When we’re down on the track we’re embarrassed. We’re ashamed. At times, we feel self-pity, we get angry at the world even at ourselves. We’re depressed. At times like this, we just feel like staying down on the track. But the only real shame is to stay down on the track. We are people of the resurrection. We are people of grace. We are forgiven. God’s grace says to you don’t have to stay down. Christ picks you up. He dusts you off and he says run!
God’s word of encouragement to you today is, “Get up and run!” Forget those who have wronged you. Forget those who have said your race or your background disqualify you from the race. Forget what lies behind and run for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. You still have a race ahead of you.
Philippians 1:6 doesn’t say, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day you fail and flop on the track.” It says, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.”
Jesus looked Peter right in the eyes and said, “You’re going to deny me.” But he said, “When you turn back, strengthen your brothers.” Get right back into God’s calling and purpose for you. Don’t stay down on the track. Get up and run! By faith finish. May God give you the grace and strength to finish your race with a kick!
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