Did you ever stop to think about what it means to be "spirit-begotten"? I have taken a couple of opportunities to focus on this idea of being "begotten" and just what "family line" has to do with the type of person we are declared to be. Notice I said "declared to be". If we are to be the type of people we are declared to be, we have to stop walking in the old patterns and start walking in the new. For example, if a prisoner is to be set free from a jail cell after 20 years in confinement, he must learn what it like to have freedoms of his own. He doesn't have the same degree of restrictions his bondage kept him in. He has new freedoms which he may pursue - not just think about.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross,scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV)
In examining this passage today, I see a call to live a different "type" of life than we did without Christ. In fact, there is a call to live:
- Energetically - "let's run the race". In a physical race, we need energy to keep running, don't we? Energetic is suggestive of possessing vigor, the ability to make an effect. It carries the idea of being active and able to be exerted to the fullest point. Vigor is what gives the runner the intensity, or inner strength to run. When force is exerted against the runner, such as fatigue, the runner possesses a certain ability to press beyond the exertion - putting themselves out there just a little bit more.
- Ordered - "the race that is laid out in front of us". Seldom do you see a runner get up in the morning, don his running shoes, and then just set off in some random direction. In fact, he has an awareness of the course he will take - probably scoping it out in advance and measuring distance, terrain, etc. We run an ordered race - one set out for us in various ways. First, it is set out in the Word of God. The Word defines the course, describes the terrain, and gives us awareness of the obstacles in our path. Second, we have an example of another "runner" to keep us focused on the track ahead - Christ. If his example and his Word are not enough, we have the Holy Spirit as our "coach" to keep us running in an ordered, and consistent manner. It is not a course we define on our own - it is defined by God.
- With perseverance - "run with perseverance". The race requires the willingness to persist. This type of willingness does not come from the mind - it comes from the inner man. Despite the "state" we encounter, there is a stability and determination on the inside which will not be affected by what we see on the outside. There is always opposition in a race, isn't there? There is always some kind of obstacle in the path. No matter the opposition or the obstacle, there is an inner determination which spurs us on. Some call this commitment. I'd like us to consider this to be a choice - to be actively obedient to the calling we possess.
- Focused - "fixing our eyes on Jesus". In a race, energy waxes and wanes. The tugs of the physical man sometimes want to outdo the commitment of the inner spiritual man. Our bodies tire, but our spirit is committed. Why? Simply because of the focus we maintain. The focus of our eye always determines the course of our life.
- Motivated - "the pioneer and perfecter of faith". When we see value in something, there is a motivation to pursue it, isn't there? For example, if you go to the doctor and hear you must lose weight and control your diet because your cholesterol is at an unhealthy level, you are experiencing high blood pressures, and your blood sugars are elevated, you might be more determined than when you simply had to buy a bigger size of slacks. If you couple this with the knowledge of both parents dying at younger ages, you might see by the example and interpret by the warning signs, you need to change! There is a motivation created by the value we place on the example and the signs. We are told to place Christ in front as our example. We are told to explore scripture to interpret the signs. Motivation comes as we keep these two in focus.
- Unencumbered - "let us throw off everything that hinders". There are a lot of things in this life which "weigh us down" in the race, aren't there? We have thoughts which we just cannot seem to break free of. There are choices we make which load guilt and shame upon us. The apathy of the years in which we remained inactive have also slowed us down. The writer tells us to "throw these off" - they hinder, therefore, they are weights. The hardest part of running is in knowing what to leave behind!
The good news is the family into which we have been "begotten". We are "begotten" into a family of "runners". The example before us is Christ. The runners in the race are just like us - complete with the baggage they must lay aside, struggling with getting the "values" right, and learning to commit with their entire being. We don't run alone! We are in a "family" of runners! Isn't that good to know? So, let us run with perseverance the race set out before us, not encumbered by the weights of this world, but focused on the glory set out before us. Run with all ya got! I hope to see you at the finish line right alongside me! Just sayin!