Running the Race

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we are in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God…” (Hebrews 12:2-3 from the Message, by Eugene Peterson)

Myrna likes to jog. She jogs by herself most of the time, but on occasion she jogs with her husband, whom, she declares, is a real athlete. Sometimes they run the local 5-K together. Whenever she does this, she says that he is always out front—ahead of her—setting the pace—forging a path through the crowd of runners. What helps her most to keep up is to fix her eyes on a spot on his back and to keep it there, watching him, matching her pace with his. When he slows up, she slows up. When he turns, so does she—eyes always watching, she takes her cues from him–ignoring all the others around her; willing herself to continue even when she becomes tired. Doing this, she shares, gives her the encouragement to push on—not to lose heart and quit before they finish.

Myrna and her husband came to mind today as I was meditating on Hebrews 12:1-2. The writer of this book uses a metaphor not so unlike Myrna’s experience. He uses the metaphor of a great race–the great race of faith that is characteristic of the Christian’s relationship and walk with God while on this earth. In this race we are told to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. Eugene Peterson, in The Message, paraphrased this passage: “Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we are in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God…”

            When I find myself struggling in my own personal race of faith, it helps me to turn from the distractions of this world and remember the old, old story of the One who died for me; remembering Christ, who hung on a cruel and horrible cross, bearing my sins so that I might be set free from the bondage of sin.

My heart desires to be like Jesus, and I want to keep my eyes fixed on Him, but sometimes, the trials and temptations of living in this world, so broken and marred by the very sin He died for—obscures this beautiful picture. My gaze falls earthward—focusing on this trial I face right now. What choices will I make? To what extent am I willing to suffer for my Lord? How far will obedience take me?

Jesus’ choice to follow his Heavenly Father’s plan took Him down the road of ultimate humiliation, scorn, physical pain and finally death—to become our final and perfect High Priest—the One ‘who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet without sin . . .faithful to the One who appointed Him.’ (See Heb.3:1-2; 4:14-16) Instead of satisfying His own desires He took the path of obedience, and as His just reward, He now sits at the right hand of God. It is written of Him, “To which of the angles did God ever say, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet?’ ” (Heb.1:13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2)

Looking intently on Jesus, the finisher and perfecter of my faith, pains my heart. My godliness falls desperately short of God’s standard—and yet we are urged to fix our eyes on Him, consider Him, draw near to Him, hold firmly to the faith we profess, and ‘approach the throne of Grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.’(Heb.4:16)

In His suffering,  Jesus  knew man’s proneness to grow weary and loose heart in the struggle against sin. He set the example for us to follow by remaining faithful to the Father to the very end. Why? Because of the ‘joy that was set before Him.’

How easy it is to lose perspective on life and the purpose for which Christ laid down His very life. Fixing my eyes on Jesus restores my perspective on life. To ponder, consider, meditate on the Savior, Jesus Christ, the supreme example of endurance, is my antidote for self-pity and my prescription for joy and peace. It encourages me to forget myself and refocus on what is truly important–finishing the race!

He does not want me do this alone—and has even given the assurance: ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ (Heb.13:5b) “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? The Lord is with me; He is my helper. . .” (Psalm 118:6, 7)

            Shifting my gaze momentarily from Him to the empty tomb that held his body for a mere 3 days, I rejoice that herein lies the victory. That stone, rolled away from the Lord’s grave, revealed the miracle of the resurrection; the power that broke the bondage of sin over all who believe in Jesus Christ. Jesus died a shameful death because of the joy he knew would follow. Now, those of us who believe can have the same hope and joy that was set before Christ, who is now seated in the highest place of honor that anyone could hope to have—at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb. 10:12; 12:2b)  Therefore, even as the writer of Hebrews pled with the early believers to persevere in their faith, in the midst of their trials and persecutions, we too are called to ‘draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith,. . .let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess for He who promised is faithful.” (10:22-23) One day, we will receive our final reward and will also dwell in that heavenly city He has prepared for those who called Him their God. That’s why I must keep my eyes fixed on Him, and why I must never drop out of the race.

My friend Myrna chose to fix her eyes on her husband’s back, following his every move in a very short and earthly race. This discipline kept her focused! Likewise, I must choose to redirect my gaze from those things that dazzle and distract me to Christ, fixing my eyes on Jesus, ‘the author and perfecter of my faith.’

Join me. Start running—and may we never quit!  (Hebrews 12:1-2)

 By: Linda Bridges©2014

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