Marathon running isn’t exactly a spectator sport but when the major sports finally find their way to the off-season and the cable sports networks have to show something, you can find it on TV. I admit that my love of running makes me look for it. The IronMan Triathalon, the Boston Marathon, and other big endurance events always catch my eye. I appreciate and (to a small degree) understand the effort and courage that kind of running requires.
That’s why it always hurts me to see a racer get close to the end and then collapse short of the finish lane. “Hitting the wall” is something all runners fear. Getting close and then just not having quite enough energy to get to the finish is something you think about, train for, and worry about.
But endurance is not just for the men and women who lace up their running shoes in the wee hours of the morning for another training run to consider. Hear the Hebrew writer: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
It is truly a shame when one hears but never obeys the Gospel, but how pitiful it is for one who once walked in the Light to fail to endure to the end (Matthew 10:22)! What can we do to prevent this from happening? How much endurance do you have and how can you get more?
God, in His infinite wisdom, knew that we would struggle with perseverance. Thus, His Word equips us with what we need. Note the careful wording of Hebrews 11:27: “By faith he [Moses] left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.” Paul echoes this thought in 2 Corinthians 4:18 where he writes, “while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” These verses teach us that we must look to the finish line. Every runner comes to that place in a race where he or she is hurting, it is hard to continue, and the thought of quitting begins to become overpoweringly strong. But when you think of the finish line, all the “quit” goes away and you keep going. For the disciple, if we can but fix our eyes on the “unseen,” that great goal of heaven, we can get there! How much thinking are you doing about heaven?
Secondly, let us understand how running with endurance means we have to leave something behind: “every weight and the sin which clings so closely to us.” I have run many races, but I’ve never seen anyone running yet with ankle weights! Runners strip all that off on Race Day. It would get in the way of the goal. It would prevent finishing. Perhaps Christians need to take a hard look at what they are trying to carry through this race. The Hebrew writer makes special mention of “sin which clings so closely to us.” Sin saps our strength and eats into our store of perseverance. As we try to justify or pretend “it’s okay,” we are robbing ourselves of the energy we would get from whole-hearted commitment to Christ, and we are dogged by guilt at every step. How many disciples have stopped running because they couldn’t run to heaven while at the same time making periodic stops to jog a little ways in the other direction, toward sin and the pleasures of the flesh? Finally it all becomes too much, too confusing, and they quit running toward heaven at all. They sapped their own strength by carrying the weight of sins they wouldn’t give up. What wrong attitude or action is weighing down your run?
There is joy when you make that last turn and the finish line comes into view. But there’s even more joy when you aren’t doubting you can get there, when you aren’t on your last legs, and you know you will finish. Brother or sister, look to Jesus and all He endured (as our passage goes on to discuss, Hebrews 12:2) and be like Him! We can do it and we can build the perseverance and endurance it takes. Let’s finish strong!