…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, who… Hebrews 12:1-3
Have you ever felt that being a Christian is sometimes like exercising or preparing for an athletic event?
Is the ongoing of the Christian faith similar to an athlete running a race? It sure seems so. The illustration used by Paul of running a race can be found in many other places in Scripture too. Real impacting Christianity, and being a person of real convicting and growing faith, is like a runner who is training, entering, competing, continuing in, and winning the race set before them. But in our case, the race is not a competition or a performance; rather, it is our faith and life in action. Take a look at Hebrews 12:1-3; notice the keywords in it like witnesses, weights, perseverance, race marked out for us, finisher, endured, opposition, and weary, to name a few. There is a key training component needed to make this happen continually, and that is the learning of our faith and about our Lord, as we do in our Devotions. In this way, we prepare for the practice of our trust and obedience, facing life and exercising faith in the midst of the obstacles and opportunities confronting us everyday.
This race in Hebrews takes place in front of a great crowd of encouragers and supporters who have "been there and done that" and won, saying, we did it! You can too! Yet, being in this race does not happen just by a wish and a sit; it takes training, perseverance, and commitment to put our faith into real, effectual action, just as a world-class runner hangs in there, no matter what. Thus, what we are called to do is keep at the race of faith and life while leaping over the hurdles in front of us like distractions, fear, doubt, hurts, and sin-keeping in the race and not giving up when we feel overwhelmed, stressed, or exhausted. This is what the heroes of the faith in chapter eleven of Hebrews did and what we can do too. A simple word comes from the Coach to us the runners; do not drop out of the race. This is also a call for us to persevere and draw closer to God's heart, not questioning our faith when times are bad. Our devotions help us do this. We will realize that even when we are not "world-class" in the world, or in skill, we are so in Christ! Then we are better able to practice obedience and trust, to move forward, embrace God's call, and learn from His Word, life, and setbacks to be better than we were (Jer. 12:5, Acts 20:24, Rom. 9:3, 1 Cor. 9:24, Gal. 2:2, 5:7, 2 Tim. 4:6-8, Heb. 12:1).Devotions allow us to run.
Devotions help us focus on Christ-who He is and what He did for us. We literally can throw off everything, as in remove anything that may cause us to fail or fall or that would be a burden such as fear or lack of focus stemming from vices that hinder one from his or her training, such as drinking alcohol or apathy, which are both bad for athletics, or fears and past hurts, which are bad for our growing faith. Here in the Hebrews passage, sin is the main enemy, with discouragement and/or fear following close behind. Thus, we are to train hard and also remove what hinders us or causes others and us to be discouraged. A big distraction is thinking we can get it all, deserve it all now, and do not need to work for it-sensuality and immediate gratification. This thinking means, I already have all I need in Christ, therefore I do not need to do devotions or study or read the Bible. The reality is this: yes, when we saved we have it all; but, for the building up of our faith, we must be in motion and work at it to make it happen. To sit as just a spectator accomplishes nothing, and certainly does not honor or glorify our Lord (1 Cor. 9:24-27; Heb. 10:28, 38).
Having a regular time to get in the Word will help us build perseverance. Scripture clearly tells us that real Christianity is more of a long-distance marathon than it is a short sprint. Thus, we have a call to keep on at the efforts and virtue of faith-no matter what. This means maintaining endurance to persist in an idea, purpose, or task despite obstacles. With faith and encouragement from others, we have actual staying power, as in you can do it too! Whether we are in tough times or great times, God may seem far away so we feel that no one cares about our plight or our concerns, But God is still there, caring! He will support us and care for us! Therefore, get to know Him more; read His Word, read "good" Christian books, and stay away from reading junk. We are to be focused on the goal ahead and be able to carry the task and ourselves through both the tough times and the joyous ones (James 5:7-12).
Have you ever wondered what it means in practice to fix your heart, mind, and your all on Christ? It means we respond to Him because He has apprehended our lives. The secret to a triumphant and contented life, as Paul found out, as Hebrews expands upon, is really simple; keep your eyes, thinking, heart, will, and direction on Christ, just as a good athlete keeps his or her eyes on the ball or opponent. Thus, whatever situation we are in-good or bad-we know we are in Christ; we can seek His empowerment and even live in His presence. This is what our lives, feelings, attitudes and even joys are, and it is not metered from what we have nor do not have, or what we want but cannot have. Nor is faith based on what is currently happening in our lives; rather, it is all about "who I am in Christ," so my focus is on Him, bringing Him glory, reverence, and gratitude, through my devotion, regardless of stress and situation. We can do this well, not in just more tyranny of activity, but rather in the crucible of surrender to Him. Our lives are His, to run hard and run deep by our absolute devotion, trust, and obedience to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord over all-including us, our thinking, and our situation.
What do you need to do to not only enter the race and run it, but to keep on running it, even finishing it, and even winning it?
In our race in life and faith we stumble, get exhausted, fall back, and wonder if it is worth the effort. But like any athletic event, it is not enough to just train and be ready; we have to keep focused during the event and not give in or up. The simple rule of the matter, that makes a great competitor in any endeavor, is to keep our focus. And if we quit or limit our training or consider dropping out of the race for a perceived easier life, and "pew-sit" in the stands just to watch others, we will gain very little and lose out on so much. The race is well worth our struggles and efforts, even when we are last. Through our growing relationship with Christ, faith is kept and built; maturity and character are the prizes, along with a life lived well and that positively affects others for Him. This is what our devotions help accomplish, and this is far better than never entering, or quitting when it gets tiresome or difficult.
Thus, what we need is Christ! We need to work on the practice of our learning and faith development before it can be deployed effectively. Learn about Jesus by leaning on Him, growing in Him! Learn about Christ by being in Him, by serving Him!
Can Christ still use us if we only do some? Well of course He can-and will! But how much more and how much greater an impact will you have in others lives and yourself when you are complete and centered as His disciple. It is like having a car that does not run very well. You can use it, but it is not reliable, it will break down and not be able to take you far. So it is with our spiritual life; it will only take us as far as it is developed. We must take care of it to build it. How much more we will be blessed in the Christian walk to further His kingdom!
© 2008, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D., Discipleship Tools www.discipleshiptools.org