Finish your race in Christ’s footsteps

I don’t run. I just thought I’d put that out there. I have all these friends who are so into running, cross country, endurance, marathon. I’m glad they enjoy it, but that’s not an activity that I enjoy. It’s ironic, though, because while I don’t run for sport literally, I run through life figuratively. I’m one of those people who never stops moving. I’m always dashing about, up to my elbows in busyness, especially this time of year. But then I don’t think that’s just me.

Everyone is running a race of some kind. Everyone is seeking a goal in their life, no matter what it may be. It could be a big goal, an accomplishment that will change the world. Or it could be a “small” goal, one that will only matter to a few people–maybe even just you. But whatever the size of your goal and no matter how many people it will affect, there will be days when you won’t be up to achieving it, especially if your goal/dream is something that you want God to use to help others.

Cubs baseball player running for first base at Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL

Cubs baseball player running for first base at Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL

Today’s verses are Hebrews 12:1-3.

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. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.

Running is hard work, especially the marathons and cross country races. Those events take time and discipline to prepare for and even more of both if you want to finish. If you sign up to run a cross country race or a marathon, you don’t get to take a nap in the middle of the race. If you’re going to run the race, you have to run it from start to finish without stopping.

I know a lot of runners, but none of my running friends have ever won a marathon. I’ve got a cousin who came pretty close, but everyone else I know doesn’t run a marathon to win. They run a marathon to finish. That’s not to say that you can’t run a race like a marathon with the goal to win, but I’m not really sure if that’s the reason to run a marathon. Remember, I don’t run. So I may be totally off course here. But marathon racing and cross country racing isn’t like sprints or 100-meter dashes. Long-distance running is all about endurance and focus.

It’s kind of like life, don’t you think? If you’re a follower of Christ, God has given you a race He wants you to run, and I guarantee it’s not a 100-meter dash. God doesn’t give us things to accomplish that only take a few minutes and a little bit of effort and faith. No. If God gives you something to do, I promise it will take more of you than you have access to, and the only way you’re going to get through it is with His help.

What we have to remember when we start running the race that God has set for us is that we’re not the only ones running it. There are many others around us who are running too. And, what’s more, Jesus already ran the race ahead of us. We have His example to draw from. We can run our races the same way He ran His.

It wasn’t easy for Him either, so don’t get into the habit of thinking that Jesus sailed through life because He was God. Nothing could be farther from the truth. He struggled just like we do with people and circumstances and the general trouble our old sinful world insists on throwing at us.

What I’ve noticed about racing–both literally and figuratively–is that the start of the race is the easy part. Sort of like the end. At the beginning, you’re fit and fresh and ready to go. At the end, you can see the finish line and you have hope that it will be over soon and you’ll be rewarded for your efforts. It’s the middle where people start struggling. It’s the middle where people give up.

Remember that. And when you hit the middle of your race, be on the lookout for discouragement and despair. You’ll wonder what you’re doing. You’ll wonder why you’re doing it. Just like a runner has to train for the middle span of a marathon, we need to prepare for the middle of our spiritual race so we’ll know how to make it through. And the key–as with everything else in life–is to watch Jesus. How did Jesus handle it? What did He say? How did He act? Follow His footsteps, and you can’t go wrong. And on the days when the trouble and the challenges you’re facing feel like too much, remember that He faced more issues than we do, and He’s right there with us offering His help if we’ll just ask for it.

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