It was a chilly, rainy, muddy Saturday. I had signed up for a ‘trail race’ that spring, without really knowing what I’d gotten myself into. I mean, I knew I’d be running on trails in the woods, and that since I usually train on roads, it’d be a little different, but I never thought it would be as difficult as it was. Before it was over I had run two races in 1 morning, a 5K and a 15K, totaling just over 12 miles on the back side of Wooster, OH.
Without chronicling the entire race for you, let me just say that hills and ruts and tree roots are hard to navigate as you’re running pell-mell through the woods. Add the fact that there are hundreds of other people running on a very narrow path, and then open up the skies and pour a storm on the whole thing… That was my morning.
I only fell down once, and since it was in the woods, no one saw me (except the person behind me who took the opportunity to blast past)! As I came up the switchbacks at the end of that race, I can still remember thinking that if I can do this, I can do anything!
Now I know that was just a race – not real life. But it’s helped me see yet another great truth from Hebrews 12, that God wants me to run my race – live my life – with perseverance…
Hebrews 12:1-3 “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.”
First off, please recognize that this is no picnic – it’s hard! Life, running your race, is going to be difficult. There will be circumstances and people and temptations trying to hinder your progress. You need to know that, so you’re prepared. If you’re expecting things to be easy, you’ll be gravely disappointed.
So as you’re running this difficult race of life God has marked out for you, keep going. Don’t quit. At the end of verse 1 it says to ‘run with perseverance.’ This is so much more than just hanging in there, hoping the hard stuff will be over soon. It’s active! Perseverance here means, “energetic resistance, steadfastness under pressure, and endurance in the face of trials.” That’s not passively hoping something will be over soon. That’s an active, dig deep, give-it-all-you’ve-got-even-when-you-think-you-don’t-got-a-lot kind of grit that doesn’t give up! Run your race with perseverance.
So how do we do that? It appears to be all about what we focus on. First, focus on the fact that other people have already completed the race well, blazed the trail for us, and are cheering us on!
During that trail race, Rebecca and Nick were in the car. There was no way to line up along the course and cheer for runners, so we were all logged into an app where they could track my progress and send pre-recorded messages that came right through my earbuds. So, while I was slogging through the mud, heading over a bridge or into a gully, I’d hear, “Way to go!” and “Grrrreat!” and sounds of clapping and cheering. It’s quite a boost when you know someone else is cheering you on.
Please know that whatever circumstance you’re facing, there are great heroes of the faith who have gone before you. They’ve endured, remained steadfast under pressure, and Hebrews says that now they’re cheering you on! And you also have a Church family, teammates on the journey, cheering for you too, helping you through the hard stuff. Perseverance has a lot to do with knowing you’re not alone.
Another huge thing that we should focus on that keeps us running even when life is hard is fixing our eyes on Jesus. Jesus ran the ultimate race. He endured the cross, for you. And He’s laid out your race, a life only you can live. His power is strengthening you. So don’t ‘grow weary and lose heart.’ Fix your eyes on Jesus.
I think it’s also interesting to notice here what kept Jesus going. What did Jesus fix His eyes on as He went to the cross? “For the joy set before Him, he endured…” Jesus had His eye on the joy to come, even in the middle of the pain. That can help us too.
Have you considered the joy set before you? Maybe it’s hard to see. Maybe you’re walking through hard things and it’s so tempting to quit. Don’t do it! Joy is coming! Jesus has paved the way! And there are people rooting you on!
Don’t just hang in there.
Run your race with perseverance!