'Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds." Hebrews 12:1-3
Recently I decided that I wanted to train to run a marathon next year (or at least a half). I know a few runners and they seem to live for the daily jog. I have this list in the back of my mind of things I want to do in life and completing a marathon happens to be one of them.
I try not to go into anything without knowing what it involves so I started to ask questions about training and the race itself. A good friend who has run the Boston marathon a couple times gave me valuable advice on the subject. He first explained what the race was like. Now a marathon is 26.2 miles so a half marathon is 13.1 miles. When I heard the actual distance I got a little apprehensive. You must know I haven't done any running since I was in high school and even then I was a sprinter so deciding to run any race, even if it's to my mailbox, is major.
He told me many races require the runners to “qualify” for the race. The qualifying is according to how quickly you run a mile. The time usually ranges from 5 minutes to 14 minutes per mile. When the race is run the participants are lined up according to how they qualify... so if you run a 5 minute mile you are out in front and so forth. Along the way there are people cheering you on of course but there are also medics and folks in carts rolling beside the runners to offer them a ride should they decide to quit or can’t make it to the end.
Each group of runners has a person who sets the pace for them so they will run the race they qualified for. Every few miles you are provided with water and what is called energy gel so that you will not become dehydrated or run out of energy. I am told the energy gel is merely sugar and it tastes horrible! Not necessarily good to you but good for you. You aren’t allowed to wear headphones while running for safety reasons so you are at the mercy of your own thoughts for a very long time.
Now what does any of this have to do with the scripture above?
The writer likens our Christian walk to an athletic event. In verse one he speaks of a "cloud of witnesses" which we are compassed about. The witnesses are not mere spectators but these are the heroes of faith which are mentioned in Hebrews 11. These are ones who have run the race and have the testimony of faith. So the crowd is an experienced crowd which knows what we are going through. We are told to lay aside weight and sin in order to run. To run a race you cannot be weighed down but be free to move forward. The past is much too heavy for any man to bear. Let it go.
We are told to run with patience the race that is set before us. Each of us is running towards something the question is what? Is it the things God has purposed for you? We have a course set before us mapped out by God Himself and designed for each individual to run. Your steps are ordered.
Paul said, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling...” Again our Christian walk is compared to a race. The "mark" Paul speaks of is a goal or end of the race. His eyes are fixed on the mark or Christ.
To run a race with patience is like running a marathon. We each have to run the race we are qualified to run. You see if I watch someone else’s' feet and they are running an 8 min. mile when I can only do a 12 minute mile I will tire quickly. I've got to train myself to endure at the pace God gave me and not waste all my energy trying to keep up with other folks. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is slow down. An important point my friend and trainer shared with me is Even when you feel like you can do more or go a little faster stay at your pace.
When I was a sprinter all I cared about was how fast I could make it to the end. But on day in physical ed. class we were told to run a mile. I started out at a swift pace and half way into the mile I began to tire. By the time I made it to the last lap I felt like my lungs were in my neck! I had speed but no endurance.
At the start of the race everyone is in the pack together so I thought it would be a good idea to run ahead of everyone for bragging rights. But after I’d lost all of my steam those who knew how to run passed me by.
There may be some that ask why you aren’t further along in your ministry, career or plain life and they will try and make you feel like you aren't moving fast enough but it takes much more endurance and discipline to run a marathon than it does a sprint. It may be a little irritating when others challenge your decision to stick to God’s plan for you but when others who have sprinted out of the gate and burned out, the Lord will allow you to trot right past them with your rhythm in tact and your focus fixed on the mark because you know the race isn't given to the swift or the strong.
See there are things at mile five that you have to experience and overcome that will help you get past mile ten. Each mile may get tougher but that’s usually when the real marathoners are separated from the rest. In the race here the runners aren’t allowed to wear headphones which broker my heart. I wanted to be able to listen to some music to help me pass the time and to motivate me. But to run this race I have to rely on what’s in me. The crowd may be there in the beginning but as the race progresses they too may wane.
When it’s just you, all alone with no outside motivation, no one cheering you on, will you continue to run? There may be people and obstacles along the way and like those folks in the carts, they will give you every reason to want to quit but you can't. Your feet may get tired and they will hurt and swell but pain is just part of it because your flesh wants to stop moving but don't worry it will pass.
Just stay hydrated and fueled up. Drink your water and pray without fail. Take your energy pack and study God's Word. Strengthen yourself in the Lord. Before you know it, when you think you aren't able to make it, you'll get your second wind and when you reach the finish line go across running! Finish this race running with your arms lifted up in victory. When you get there, you will receive the prize not according to anybody else race but according your race and how you’ve run it. Settle into His rhythm. Watch His feet and run with Him to the end. Everything is in God's time and at His prescribed pace. And remember to continue to press!
This is amazing, "running the race", God has been speaking to me and a friend of mine about this same thing! 1 Corin. 9:24-Do you not know that those WHO RUN IN A RACE all run, but only one receives the prize! Run in such a way that you may obtain it.
("Paul said, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling...” The "mark" Paul speaks of is a goal or end of the race. His eyes are fixed on the mark or Christ.") I believe the answer to that is found in 2 Thess. 2:13-14-to obtain the glory of the Lord, to which we are called. Blessings, Sharon