The Race – Part 3

24 05 2017

therace03Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrew 12:1-2

When I was in high school, my race in track was the 800m run. My goal was to get under 2 minutes, but my best time ever ended up being 2:01. My coach trained me extremely hard, even to the point that I could tell you what pace I was running without looking at a stopwatch. Most people don’t realize how much strategy plays into running a race. It would be one thing if it was just you on the track running, but in the 800m run it was normally 20 or more competitive racers jostling for position on the same narrow lane. I was always quick, but I didn’t have the best endurance or kick at the end. Therefore my strategy was to sprint out of the starting line around the first curve in order to be well ahead and in first place. I then would fight to keep that position by spreading my elbows out and running as far outside the lane as possible without letting someone slip by me on the inside. All of this would make the other runners have to work harder to pass me. Sometimes this strategy worked, and sometimes it didn’t. Sometimes I just didn’t have enough at the end to hold off the top runners.

The type of race that the author of Hebrews was writing about here was not an 800m run. The author is talking about running with endurance, which means this is a very long distance race. Over the last 7 or 8 years my wife and I have gotten into running endurance races like regular marathons, trail marathons, obstacle races, etc. (There are worse things that one could do for their mid-life crisis!) My goal is to soon be able to run an ultra-marathon starting with a 50K (31 miles). Since beginning to run these races, I have learned a ton! I have learned what food is good to eat the night before and the morning of the race. I have learned what nutrition I respond best to while running. I have my favorite pair of shorts. I have my favorite brand and model of shoe depending on what surface I will be running on. I know what cold weather gear I need depending on what the temperature will be. I know, depending on the temperature and humidity, how far I can run on a liter of water without getting dehydrated. I could go on and on, but the point I am trying to make is that it takes a lot of training and preparation to run an endurance race.

The funny thing about this endurance race that God has placed us on is that we are to learn as we go. When we made the decision to follow Jesus, the starting gun went off. We might initially be excited about being in the race sprinting out of the blocks, but we eventually find a good pace to settle into and keep moving forward. There are times that we may have to walk as we do some training, and there are other times when it seems as though we could sprint forever. The problem with the church in the West is that the vast majority of racers have simply stopped. We are content to let the “professionals” run. We might invite someone to watch the race with us on Easter, but other than that it’s just too hard to run that race, especially with all of the distractions.

We must keep moving forward by making disciples with the long vision in mind. Making disciples is not a sprint; it’s an endurance race. We will mess up and stumble and so will those that we are discipling, but we fall forward. We keep our legs moving.

I tell people all the time that at my age I am not about winning; I’m about finishing. The funny thing is that as I build up endurance, I find myself getting more competitive. I believe that as we mature in our Christian faith and build up more endurance to run better, we become like-minded with Paul when he said, “Run in such a way to win the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:24b CSB) In this context, Paul was talking about the gospel and sharing in the blessing of seeing others come to faith and be made disciples who make disciples.

How awesome would it be to be apart of a church that competed with each other for making disciples!? One of the things that I really enjoy about the running community is that although they are a competitive bunch, they are hugely encouraging. What would it look like if our churches were full of believers that fought hard for every disciple made and spurred each other on knowing it’s all for God’s glory?


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