Mine Creek Baptist Church
Running the Race
By Preacher Chris Rathbone
Most folks probably wouldn’t believe it by looking at me now, but back in the day I ran track. Matter of fact I was a sprinter! Hard to imagine I know, but it’s the truth. After many years and pounds have passed, those days are over for sure! If you see me running, look behind me, because there must be something really big chasing me!
Being a good runner takes discipline and hard work. An athlete doesn’t just decide one day that they are going to run a marathon. To build up to that kind of competition, will take months, if not years of training to achieve. Though competing as a sprinter sure takes a lot of training, deciding to run long distance is a “whole other animal”! Training for long distance running will take time. One will slowly work their way up to greater distances each time they run. Nutrition, hydration, consistent training, and mental preparation all factor in to being competitive in long distance events. It takes a big commitment to achieve this kind of goal.
The writer of the book of Hebrews (whom I believe is Paul) makes a comparison of the Christian life to a race. In chapter 12 verses 1-3, he gives some foundational truth of how we can run this race of faith and be successful and most importantly, faithful to the Lord in the process.
First of all, we are to learn from those who ran before us: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses…” I believe he is referring to the ones he wrote about in chapter 11. Chapter 11 is what I call the Great Hall of Faith. He gives us a list of those who ran the race of faith before us. Ones such as Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Joseph, etc. etc. In other words, we can look to the example that has been set by those we read about in the scriptures. But I don’t believe it just stops there. There are those in our families, our church families, among our friends and peers whom faithfully run the race of faith that we can learn from. They can teach us by being our example of what it takes to be in the race.
Secondly, we must rid ourselves of hindrances: “let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us…” One thing you will notice about runners is that for the most part they are skinny! Now you know why I walk! There are no excess pounds that they have to carry that would hinder their performance. Not only that but notice how their clothing is so lightweight. No big, bulky, or heavyweight uniforms are used. The less weight one has to carry the better they can compete. Essentially, Paul is telling us the same thing in our spiritual race. We must get rid of the excess baggage that weights us down spiritually. Repentance of sin in our lives should be obvious. Hard to run this race with Jesus when there is sin in our lives. Sin breaks our fellowship with our Savior and hinders His work in our lives. We must get rid of the extra weight spiritually that we shouldn’t be carrying.
Next, we must recognize the kind of race we are in: “and let us run with patience the race that is set before us…” The word “patience” in this text means endurance. The race that you and I are in is not a short sprint and then we cross the finish line. This race of faith is a lifelong marathon. When training for long distance running an athlete must work over time to build endurance. Each day they push themselves a little more and work a little harder. This kind of endurance doesn’t come in days or weeks, but over months and years. The reason many Christians struggle in this race of faith is they keep thinking they are sprinters instead of long distance runners! Like a seasoned runner that chooses to train every day, we have to wake up every day and choose Jesus. Being a Christian is a lifetime commitment where we choose to run this race of faith every day, understanding that we are in this for the long haul!
Lastly, and most importantly, we must keep our eyes on the prize: “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.” The goal of the athlete who competes is to win the prize. All the hard work, long hours of training, and discipline happen because they focus on what they want to achieve: The prize! Notice how proudly an Olympic competitor stands on the podium when they receive their medal. All the time and energy spent was to hopefully be on that podium to see all the hard work pay off and receive that medal. Tears often overwhelm them as they realize they have achieved their goal. As we run this race of faith my friends we must never take our eyes off the prize. Jesus who is the author and finisher of our faith is the one who ran his race in obedience to the Father. He is our example, he is our Savior, He is the reason we entered this race to begin with. Never, ever, take your eyes off of Jesus. When we cross the finish line one day, it will be worth it all! Keep on running the race my friends and keep your eyes on Jesus!!!
P.S. Happy Thanksgiving!!!!!