09/28/T – Stay in the Race

Ezekiel 30:1-26; Hebrews 12:1-13; Psalms 111:1-4; Proverbs 24:8

NT: “Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him who endured such hostility from sinners against himself, so that you won’t grow weary and give up. In struggling against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons: My son, do not take the Lord’s discipline lightly or lose heart when you are reproved by him, for the Lord disciplines the one he loves and punishes every son he receives. Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline — which all receive  — then you are illegitimate children and not sons… No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭12:1-8, 11‬ ‭CSB)

For a 10-year period, I was a very avid runner, until a chronic injury forced me to stop. I was not a sprinter – I was a long-distance runner, logging anywhere from 3 – 21 miles on a run. I even ran a couple of marathons. In one particular race, I was a member of a relay team. The relay race ran from the Southeast border of a county in my area to the Northwest border of the county – a total distance of about 53 miles. I was selected to run the starting leg and the anchor leg of the relay. Early that morning, I ran the first 5 miles of the race, and then spent the rest of that day cheering on the rest of my team, until I had the opportunity to run the final couple of miles to the finish, with all of my teammates running along side me. That is the picture that the writer of Hebrews gives in this well-known passage. Those heroes of the faith that were described in chapter 11 are all people that ran legs in this great relay of redemption. Countless scores of faith-filled believers have finished their leg of the race and have now passed the baton on to us in this generation. As we run, they stand in the heavenly grandstands and cheer us on. Thousands of years of prophetic promise have been placed in our hands and it is time for us to run our leg of the race. Will we finish our leg well, or will we give up and stop running?

What can we do to run our race well? First, we need to shed every hindrance and sin that ensnares us and prevents us from running. The Greek word for ‘hindrance’ refers to bulk, burdens, weight, and encumbrances. Runners, before they run a race, try and shed as much weight as possible. They shed body weight, they wear as little clothing as possible, they wear light-weight shoes… anything that would cause them to expend extra energy and run inefficiently gets left behind. Paul wrote in Philippians 3 that he forgot what was behind and reached forward to what was ahead to pursue as his goal of winning the prize promised by God through Christ. What things are weighing us down and preventing us from moving forward? Sin is not only a weight, but it will also disqualify us from the race. In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul wrote that he disciplined his body and exercised self-control so that he would not be disqualified. The way that we get rid of sin is through confession, repentance and faith in Christ. So… we need to take off our burdens, get rid of our sin… and we need to keep our eyes on Jesus who is the pioneer and perfecter, the founder and completer, and the author and finisher of our faith. He ran the race that we are running, perfectly and successfully. He began shaping us into runners when we came to faith in Him… and He will continue shaping us as we keep our eyes on Him in faith. Finally, we need to embrace discipline and not run away from it.

When my son began high school, he wanted to join the cross country team. Apparently, all those years of seeing me run rubbed off on him. The only problem was, he wasn’t a fast runner. He was very dedicated, but not fast. In fact he was the slowest boy on the team. His freshman year, he ran on the JV team and was not very competitive – but he wanted to be. When all the other runners were finding a way to skimp on the drills, he did everything the coach asked him to do… and he improved. During his Junior year, he got a new coach… and she was tough. She pushed everyone on the team and most of the team members pushed back – but not my son. He embraced the painful discipline and even thanked the coach for pushing him so hard. That year, he made the varsity team and kept improving. By the time he entered his senior year, he was consistently among the top three runners in his school. The Lord disciplines those He loves – not because He hates us or is angry at us, but because He wants to perfect us. If we stay in the race, keep our eyes on Jesus, and embrace the Lord’s discipline, He will perfect our faith and we will cross our finish line well and receive the prize that God has promised us. And one day, at the end of the age, we will run that last leg of the race with Christ – and all those who have gone before us – and celebrate our victory together in a great feast.

Psalms: “Hallelujah! I will praise the Lord with all my heart in the assembly of the upright and in the congregation. The Lord’s works are great, studied by all who delight in them. All that he does is splendid and majestic; his righteousness endures forever. He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered. The Lord is gracious and compassionate.” (‭Psalms‬ ‭111:1-4‬ ‭CSB)

Oh the goodness, faithfulness, righteousness, mercy and grace of the Lord God! The Lord’s works are great… including the work that He does in us if we open ourselves to it. The Lord is worthy of praise. Hallelujah!!

Prayer: Lord, first of all – thank You for the privilege of representing You and Your kingdom as I run this race You have called me to run. I also thank You that I have You as my encouragement, my example, and my perfecter. Give me the grace to stay in the race and not run away from the discipline you have for me, for Your discipline is not to destroy me but to perfect me in Your image. I choose lay aside the weight and sin and ever look to You by faith. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

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