1-3Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!
The eleventh chapter of Hebrews is a record of many individuals throughout history that faced insurmountable doubts in their faith and came out on the other side of those doubts, confidence firmly rooted in God's ability to deliver them from both their circumstances and their sin. In the passage above, we are encouraged to take one final look at how we are "running the race". Let me "unpack" this a little for you:
- We have examples to follow. We don't walk this Christian walk without plenty of positive examples to follow. The record of their lives is a legacy to both their struggle with faith, and their assurance of faith which if firmly rooted in God's ability within their lives. We have no reason, or excuse, to say we "don't know how" to live a life of faith in the midst of disaster, loss of loved ones, struggles with depression, financial crisis, fearful circumstances - because we have examples in scripture of individuals that have done just that.
- We will one day be an example for others to follow. We may never know who it is that we will influence by our walk of faith. Most of the time we don't think about that - but it is true - others will look to us and glean from our example what they need to run the race.
- We have to "strip down" in order to run the race correctly. No runner "burdens" themselves by putting on layers and layers of extra clothes, packs of supplies, and tons of water. Instead, they count on the running to generate the temperature regulation they will need, the pit stops along the way to refill their "energy" for the run. We often find that the struggle in "running" the race is in the amount of "weight" we are attempting to carry into the race. Burdens are not meant to be carried on our shoulders - they are meant to be laid down at the feet of the one who can carry them for us.
- We need to deal with our spiritual "health". No spiritual fat or parasitic sins to keep us from running and finishing as we should. An over-abundance of fat in our physical bodies serves to damage the heart, add mass to our already maxed physical frame, and slow down our ability to have the energy for the needs that present themselves. Fat takes nearly twice as long to breakdown into energy (fuel) our bodies can use. The secret of being physically lean is in taking in what our bodies can consume in a day - no more, no less. The secret of being spiritually "lean" is in giving our spirit man what it needs for the race - regular, consistent feedings on those things that build us up. Parasitic sins are just what they sound like - those things that silently eat away at the integrity of our spiritual health. Small compromises that eventually lead to bigger ones. A parasite is seldom recognized until it has done its destructive work is nearly complete!
- We need to study how Jesus ran the race. No greater example exists - he forged ahead in spite of the difficulties. One thing we see evidenced in his life was his focus. He kept his eyes on his Father - looking to him to lead him through the challenges he faced. We'd do well to learn from his example. Any runner will tell you the value of focus. Focus determines our course, keeps us on track for our destination, and aids us in taking the race one segment at a time. A long distance runner does not focus on the finish line, but on segments along the way - always aware of the finish line, but keenly aware of the necessary segments along the way.
Last, but not least, when our faith is waning, we need to recount our steps along the way. When we learn to do this well, we will see how much we have sustenance has been available along the way. We become aware of the keeping and regenerating power of our God. It is not an easy race to run - but it has rewards that are innumerable. When our destiny is before us, our hearts are bolstered in their faith. Seeing Jesus clearly is always enough to "shoot adrenaline" into our souls!