The Race

Hebrews 12:1-2 CSB “Therefore, 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 pioneer 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.”

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What a life coach we have in Jesus for the race we’re in. He finished the race in perfect form. Right before He took His last breath on earth He said, “It is finished.” (John 19:30) The intimidation of death on the cross wasn’t powerful enough to deter Him from the race. Jesus was that focused on finishing. And HE DID IT ALL FOR YOU AND ME.😊 What a pioneer we have!

In Hebrews chapter 11, we see many great finishers of the race. This lets us know that finishing is attainable for us too.😊 In Hebrews 12:1 we’re told the first thing we must do is lay aside the sin and anything that hinders us in the race. These are snares and weights that impede our progres. The sin in our lives must be addressed. The apostle Paul comes to mind when I think about this. Paul was an apostle who spoke frankly about his own struggle with sin. Every born again believer has the same struggle. But victory is gained through Jesus.😊 Listen to what Paul said and see if this sounds familiar:

Romans 7:14-25 CSB “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold as a slave under sin. For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate. Now if I do what I do not want to do, I agree with the law that it is good. So now I am no longer the one doing it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. Now if I do what I do not want, I am no longer the one that does it, but it is the sin that lives in me. So I discover this law: When I want to do what is good, evil is present with me. For in my inner self I delight in God’s law, but I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I myself am serving the law of God, but with my flesh, the law of sin.”

Paul was not making an excuse for his sins. He is telling it like it is. The Holy Spirit inspired him to write this so believe it. Believe it about yourself. Just don’t give up in our struggle with sin. Look to Jesus and His atoning sacrifice for sins. (1 John 2:1-2 1 John 4:9-11) He is the answer for the wretched man/woman of God, and for the whole world.😊 If Jesus says He will graciously forgive us and purify us from all sin what reason would we have to give up the race when the going gets tough?🤔 (1 John 1:7-10)

ENDURANCE 

That brings us to ENDURANCE or PATIENCE. A person with endurance cannot be swerved from his/her cause. Endurance makes us strong and a finisher of the race.😊 But how is endurance or patience obtained?

Romans 5:3-5 NET “Not only this, but we also REJOICE IN SUFFERINGS, knowing that SUFFERING PRODUCES ENDURANCE, and endurance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Did you hear what God’s word says? Our sufferings; our problems, the trials of life we go through develops endurance.😳 Yes! And God says for this reason we can rejoice in our sufferings.😊 Endurance in turn produces godly character, and godly character produces a sure hope. But none of this happens without going through trials. This is where many check out. Being willing to suffer for God (let alone rejoice in them) doesn’t make sense. Many are trying to serve God through their flesh, or their own desires and feelings. If it doesn’t feel good to them it isn’t from God. They can see that Jesus suffered on the cross for them but aren’t willing to suffer the least for Him. Pain and suffering will never make sense to those who walk after the flesh. Only one who truly loves and believes in God will be willing to not only suffer for Him but also rejoice in it. This is a sign of spiritual maturity:

Acts 5:40-42 CSB “After they called in the apostles and had them flogged, they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus and released them. Then they went out from the presence of the Sanhedrin, REJOICING that they were counted worthy to be treated shamefully on behalf of the Name. Every day in the temple, and in various homes, they continued teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.”

“Matthew 5:11-12 NLT “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.”

Again, only a mature, true lover of God will be willing to suffer for Him and obey Him by rejoicing in it. These have learned the secret of their sufferings; it produces endurance, and leads to a sure hope. The Spirit of God rests on such ones:

1 Peter 4:12-14 CSB “Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you, as if something unusual were happening to you. Instead, REJOICE as you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may also rejoice with great joy when his glory is revealed. If you are ridiculed for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God RESTS ON YOU.”😊 

1 Peter 4:16-17 KJV “Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. [17] For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?”

I find it interesting that judgment beginning with the house of God is in the same context of scripture with how we view our sufferings as Christians. Because how we view our sufferings as a Christian will determine how we are judged by God. If we view them correctly we are not focused on the sufferings themselves but rather on what they mean: we have a great reward in heaven, the Spirit of God is resting on us, we will also rejoice when Jesus comes and reveals His glory to the whole world,😊 all the prophets were treated the same way, what a great company we are in!😊 It is our privilege not only to suffer for Jesus’ name but also learn how to rejoice in them:

James 1:2-4 CSB “Consider it A GREAT JOY, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”

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