Over the past few years, I have developed a love/hate relationship with running. Oftentimes while I’m in the middle of a run, especially on the treadmill, I just want to stop. I want to call it quits and be done for the day. Running isn’t easy. It requires a great deal of physical strength, as well as mental strength. But I love how I feel after a run, and I love all the benefits of running.
I’m grateful that the Bible refers to running because it’s something that I can relate to. Our life on this earth is a journey, a spiritual race, and we are called to run.
Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “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. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…” (NIV84)
There are a few things I want to highlight from this passage. First off, it says that we’re surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. There are men and women who have gone before us, who have fought the good fight, who have finished the race, who have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7). This is meant to encourage us! We’re not alone! And we have the greatest example, the One who ran a perfect race – Jesus Christ.
Next, the passage says to throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. What is hindering you in your race? What is slowing you down? What sin is tripping you up? Running has been a huge benefit to me in my weight-loss journey, a major part of getting back to my pre-pregnancy weight after having each of my kids. Needless to say, it’s harder to run when I have all that extra (physical) baggage to carry. But spiritual baggage can also make our spiritual race that much more difficult! It’s time to throw it off!! Throw off the guilt, the shame, the condemnation. Embrace the freedom that Christ has for you. Your sins – past, present, and future – were forgiven on the cross. It is done; it is finished!
(Warning: I love getting Hebrew and Greek definitions from http://www.blueletterbible.org/ – stay with me!)
This passage doesn’t say that we should walk, skip, jump, or frolic. It says run! The Greek word for “let us run” is trechō, which means: to run – of persons in haste, of those who run in a race course; by a metaphor taken from runners in a race, to exert one’s self, strive hard; to spend one’s strength in performing or attaining something; word occurs in Greek writings denoting to incur extreme peril, which it requires the exertion of all one’s effort to overcome. We are called to exert ourselves, to put forth all of our effort to overcome, to strive hard!
It says we are to run with perseverance. This word in the Greek is hypomonē, which means steadfastness, constancy, endurance, the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings, a patient enduring, sustaining, perseverance. We aren’t to be swerved from our purpose; we are to be steadfast and constant in our race.
“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” The race marked out for us. Another translation says “the race that is set before us” (NASB). The Greek word used here is prokeimai, meaning to set before, to be placed before the eyes, to be appointed, destined. We have each had a race marked out for us. My race will look different than yours. We are unique people, with unique callings, unique lives, and unique races to run. God has appointed your course; He’s destined it to you.
The last part of this passage I want to highlight says: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” We’re called to fix our eyes on Him… we’re not to look anywhere else. Target fixation is when “an individual becomes so focused on an observed object that their awareness of hazards or obstacles diminishes” (www.wikipedia.org). When we have our eyes set on Jesus, all the distractions start to fade. We don’t have to worry about the hazards or obstacles; God is in control, and we can put our trust in Him. In the Greek, “fix our eyes” is aphoraō, which means to turn the eyes away from other things and fix them on something. We have to take our eyes off the things around us and fix them on Jesus! In relation to real life, you run slower if you look anywhere but ahead. If you’re constantly looking behind you, at the past, you will slow down. Let’s look to Jesus, and let’s run hard the race that He has set before each of us!
I recently found an amazing blog by Kat Lee called Inspired to Action (http://inspiredtoaction.com/). Kat has become an inspiration to me – if you haven’t listened to her podcasts, you should! They are encouraging and uplifting. I was listening to one recently called “Overcoming Comparison in Motherhood” (you can find it here: http://inspiredtoaction.com/2014/07/ita-50-overcoming-comparison-in-motherhood-with-elisa-pulliam/). It’s an interview with Elisa Pulliam (http://www.elisapulliam.com/). Kat said one thing in particular that jumped out at me: “Comparison, in the long run, is just going to slow us down.” We are slowed down in our race when we look to the right or to the left. We don’t need to concern ourselves with other people and their races. My race is just that – MY race; it will look different than yours. There isn’t a cookie-cutter race for every believer. Comparing your life with another person’s will only slow you down. Another favorite quote of mine from that podcast: “The only person we should compare ourselves to is who we were yesterday, last week, or last year.” This is so true!
One of my favorite worship songs right now is from Bethel’s Loft Sessions. It’s called “Come to Me” by Jenn Johnson and John Hendrickson (http://bethelmusic.com/albums/the-loft-sessions/). There’s a line in particular that I absolutely love: “Don’t look to right or to the left, keep your eyes on Me” (click here to watch the music video on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sY0Vz8fvIhE). God wants us to focus our hearts, our energy, our lives on Him. He is worthy! Looking anywhere but on Him will only slow us down. Let’s be faithful to run the race that He’s marked!
Last month, I got to run my first race. I trained for 8 weeks, then flew to California to run a 9K with my sister. It was such an incredible experience! We met both of our goals – we finished in under an hour (59:40!) and we didn’t stop to walk. But it was HARD! It took everything within me – physically, mentally, spiritually – to finish strong. During the race, it was hard not to compare my run with all the other ladies there (especially the ones running 7-minute miles!). But ultimately, I wasn’t running for them. I was running MY race, hence the title of my blog – “My Race to Run”. This is my life to live, my journey to enjoy, my race to run… as a Daughter of the Most High, as a wife, as a mother.
I want to end this first blog with The Message’s translation of Hebrews 12:1-3; I think it sums it up perfectly! “Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!”
Thanks so much for reading! I hope and pray that you are encouraged in your race, and that you’re empowered to run with perseverance!
After my first 9K with my sister! 🙂
During my training, I read Kara Goucher’s book “Running For Women: From First Steps to Marathons” (http://www.amazon.com/Kara-Gouchers-Running-Women-Marathons/dp/1439196125). She shared a quote from Mike Fanelli that I repeated to myself throughout my 5.59 miles – “I tell our runners to divide the race into thirds. Run the first part with your head, the middle part with your personality, and the last part with your heart.” This was a huge motivation for me in my race!