RUN AND FINISH THE RACE
Devotional for All Saints Sunday based upon Hebrews 12: 1-2
I am inspired by stories of people who did not give up. I really admire people who stay with a commitment all the way through. Unfortunately, there are many people today who start living the Christian life, but they quit when the going gets tough.
The author of the letter to the Hebrews compares the Christian life not to a wind sprint, but to a marathon. I once ran a half-marathon, but I have never run a marathon. In a wind sprint you run as fast as you can for a short distance. Speed is the critical factor. In a marathon, endurance is the critical factor. In your Christian life, do you have endurance? Will you make it all the way to the end? The author of the letter to the Hebrews gives us three encouraging words to help us make it to the end – to help us run and finish the race of life.
First, BE INSPIRED BY THOSE WHO HAVE GONE BEFORE YOU.
The author tells us that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses – people who have gone before us. Hebrews 12 starts out with the word “therefore.” Which means that the 12th chapter is connected to the 11th chapter, which has often been called the great Faith Chapter. In the 11th chapter the writer gives us a long list of people who have already run and finished the race of life.
We need to be inspired by those who have gone before us. But we also need to remember that we can be and we need to be an inspiration to those who are coming after us. No matter who you are, someone is watching you. If you stumble and fall – or worse yet, if you quit – someone will become discouraged. Be inspired by those who have gone before you. And be an inspiration to those who are coming after you.
Second, BE PREPARED FOR THE STRUGGLES THAT WILL COME.
The writer of this letter says, “Lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely.” Prepare for life by laying aside anything that is weighing you down.
What is weighing you down? At the recent Latino ministries Encuentro (Encounter) gathering one of the presenters told about his recent pilgrimage along the five-hundred-mile route in northern Spain called the Camino de Santiago. He mentioned a book that had been written about this pilgrimage. Its title was, “To walk far, carry less.”
Do you have a friendship that is a drag on you and is weighing you down? Are some material things – some big, expensive toys – weighing you down? Do you have a huge debt from all the things that you have bought that is weighing you down? Do you have some bad habits? Are you involved in some activities? Have you made some commitments that are not wrong in and of themselves, but they are weighing you down? They are so time consuming, so distracting, so expensive, that they hinder you from being able to focus on Jesus. The author of the letter to the Hebrews says, Get rid of them. Lay them down so that they do not weigh you down.
And what about the sin that clings so closely? Or, as another translation puts it, the sin that so easily entangles. Just one little white lie, one wayward glance, one harsh, critical, judgmental, or inappropriate word, and it becomes so much easier to do it the second time. The tentacles come out, and we are entangled. The author of the letter to the Hebrews says, Lay aside everything that could hinder you, all those things that could entangle you, and run with perseverance the race that is set before you.
Third, FIX YOUR EYES ON JESUS.
The author describes Jesus as the pioneer and perfecter – the author and finisher of our faith. For the sake of the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross, He disregarded the shame, and now He has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
Jesus was mocked and made fun of. He was despised and rejected. He faced great opposition. He even died the most cruel and shameful and painful of deaths – death by crucifixion. And yet He stayed the course. He paid the price. He ran and finished the race. So the writer says, When you grow weary and when you are tired, fix your eyes on Jesus.
Every Christian – every Christian congregation – needs to hear these words often. “Fix your eyes on Jesus.” Because it is so easy to quit. It is so easy to say, “I do not want to – I do not have to – I do not have the strength and energy to do this anymore.” So the author says, Fix your eyes on Jesus. He is at the finish line. He is cheering you on. Keep looking to Him.
Who are the people in the heavenly grandstands who – along with the great heroes of the Bible – are cheering for you? Maybe it’s a parent, or a grandparent, or another person of great Christian faith, who was a source of great inspiration for you. They died in faith in Jesus. And now they are in heaven cheering for you. Who is that person – who are those persons – whom you most remember on All Saints Sunday? In life – and now in eternal life – they are cheering for you.
When you reach your heavenly home and are welcomed by the crowd of people who have been cheering for you, there is One who will step out of the crowd and will give you the biggest hug that you have ever gotten. He will say, “Welcome home. Well done, you good and faithful servant.” But until then, be inspired by those who have gone before you. Be prepared for the struggles that will come. And fix your eyes on Jesus.
Dennis D. Nelson
President of the Board and Director of Lutheran CORE