I love to run. Not slow-paced, light jogging but RUNNING. If there is competition involved in the running, it’s even better. Knowing my competitive nature and love for running, God saved me while I was at summer camp by using a Scripture memory verse competition about running. The passage uses the language of running a race to describe the Christian life.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV
For the first time in my life, I understood that my life was not fixed on Jesus. Jesus was not my finish line, hope, and goal. Instead, I fixed my eyes always on myself. I was a sinner, and I needed a Savior who was not hindered by the things that slowed me down or entangled by the sins that caused me to stumble. I needed Christ to bear and carry the weight of my sin if I was ever to have the hope of finishing and enjoying eternal life with God.
When I repented of my sin to God and Christ gave me new life the real race began…a race that God marked out for me for his purposes.
“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us”
I am learning that running well spiritually begins at home. Personal life at home is the training ground for Christian champions who overcome. But how do we run at home with perseverance?
Consider the Encouragement of Your Cheering Section
When working out or competing, we are encouraged to go farther and dig deeper when others are spurring us on. If you are feeling unmotivated to get out of bed to pray and read God’s word, by faith imagine a stadium full of faith heroes. Champions like Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Rahab, Samuel, and David are cheering you on to be faithful to Jesus Christ and to finish your Christian race like they finished theirs, because “we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses.”
Throw Off Everything That Hinders and Sin That Entangles
A competitive athlete does not just avoid doing things that are illegal but also disciplines himself to even give up his freedoms and the good things he enjoys if it might hinder his best performance. He changes his diet, disciplines his focus and mind, adjusts training regimens, and refrains from certain extracurricular activities to perform at his best.
As Christians, if we are wanting to please Jesus Christ and run well, we must throw off everything that hinders us in our personal lives at home.
“let us throw off everything that hinders.”
For example, a good leisure activity like reading an encouraging book might not be a bad thing. However, as a husband I often must throw off my desire to enjoy a book by myself when I am with my children, since I only have so much time to be with them each evening.
I want to be a good steward of my home. However, I might need to throw off the desire for cultivating the perfect lawn, so I am not neglecting cultivating the hearts of my children by reading, teaching, and serving my family. I may need to throw off the TV in the living room, if it is hindering quality time in hospitality with neighbors and guests in our home.
There are also likely sinful habits at home that are entangling me, tripping me up, and hindering spiritual growth, because I am not throwing them off.
“let us throw off … the sin that so easily entangles.”
Prayerlessness might indicate sinful independence and pride (James 4:1-4). Constantly buying things for the home might show greed, discontentment, and a lack of self-control (Ecclesiastes 5:10). Anger at the children when they break something might show sinfully valuing material riches over eternal riches (Colossians 3:1, 8). The desire to turn to television and neglect home responsibilities may indicate slothfulness and a lust for comfort and ease (Ecclesiastes 10:18).
Fix Your Eyes on Jesus
Every runner knows that you must keep your eyes focused in front of you. You don’t look to the left or right. You don’t focus on the other competitors. You keep your focus on the goal of the finish line until you finish the race.
“fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”
As Christians in our homes we need to proactively fix our eyes and gaze on Christ. What gospel truths about our pioneer and perfecter of faith are we actively choosing to meditate on while at home (Colossians 3:16)? Are we getting time alone to go and pray with the Lord, so we can be best prepared to minister to our family, friends, and coworkers (Mark 1:35)? Are we regularly singing and declaring his excellencies and praises (1 Peter 2:9)?
Consider Christ’s Endurance When Opposed
As we seek to faithfully follow Christ at home, we must expect opposition and learn to depend on the endurance and strength of Christ, so that we will not lose heart.
“Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
We will face opposition from our own sinful flesh (Galatians 5:16-17). Our sinful desires will cry out in all sorts of ways: “I need more sleep,” “I need to see that show or movie,” or “I need peace and quiet.”
We will face opposition from other sinners in our home (Matthew 10:34-39; Luke 12:51-53). Expect children to push back, whine, complain, manipulate, argue, or disobey to get what they want. Be prepared to face opposition from your spouse as following Christ will likely confront sinful patterns and behaviors in their life. Often what hinders and entangles our own lives are influencing the lives of our spouses.
We will also face opposition from the anti-god values and beliefs of our world through the TV, news outlets, workplace, and other relationships (1 John 2:15-17). We must be prepared to battle these anti-god values with God’s values. Confront these lies with God’s truth. Exchange the world’s commitments and priorities with God’s priorities.
We should also expect to endure opposition from spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:12-20), which is why we need to proactively prepare with the spiritual resources we need for the battle.
Let’s run. Let’s run with perseverance. Let’s run with the encouragement of the champions who have gone before us. Let’s run by throwing off everything that weights us down and trips us up. Let’s run by fixing our focus on Jesus, our example. Let’s run even if we face opposition. Let’s run like the race really matters, even when we are only running at home by ourselves. Let’s run!