Lined up side by side, ready to take off, my grandson’s restraining arm shoots out across his little brother’s stomach.
“Go!” Big brother shouts.
They take off across our grass. It’s a dubious race, one that counts on a certain seven-year-old against a five-year-old sibling pecking order. The course, established by the elder begins and ends by his command. The winner, most certainly, determined the same way.
“and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV
Sometimes, my eyes seem to land on those who have not run well or those who didn’t end well.
My attention is drawn away by Christian leaders and longtime followers drifting from truth and in the end dishonoring God. It upsets my rhythm and slows me down. Sometimes I look at them when my eyes should be resolutely focused on Christ.
On the heels of the faith chapter where Abraham and Sarah, Rahab, David and Moses along with a host of faithful runners testify, Hebrews 12 reminds us we are in a race. It reminds me, I’m not done yet.
The Apostle Paul spoke of the race we run in his letters. He tells us in 1 Corinthians 9:24 to run in such a way as to win. In Galatians he warns about running in vain and what might hinder our run. (Gal. 2:2; 5:7) And, in 2 Timothy 4:7, an older Paul declares victory in fighting well, finishing the race, and keeping the faith.
Paul’s arduous course, likely ended in martyrdom. He lived with persecution and sorrow, yet paradoxically overflowed with the joy of the Lord. Imprisoned, burdened and mistreated, Paul raced to the finish with assurance despite many others who did not.
“For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me…” 2 Tim. 4:10 ESV
There are Demas’ today. You might know someone who once followed Christ, and then walked away. We dissect their swerving, stumbling, falling and detouring. It saddens us and shocks us to hear of shipwrecked faith, but it should not surprise us.
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith…” 1 Tim. 4:1 ESV
We will become discouraged, worn, and spiritually despondent if our eyes leave Jesus and focus on them. This world and the season in which I run, feels like its full of landmines, earthquakes under my feet, hurricanes on the horizon, and deafening distractions. My race ahead appears difficult and how it ends includes unknowns. Yet, looking at those who haven’t ended well isn’t the focus of the Hebrews race.
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…”
More and more of my loved ones and friends are with Jesus. My “cloud of witnesses” grows in this stage of life much faster than I want. They’ve crossed the finish line while I plod on slower and slower.
If my Dad and Mom, those close friends who have finished the race, or mentors of my youth, could cheer from the stands, perhaps they would shout, “Don’t look away,” “Keep going,” “Stay the course,” and likely, “Get rid of the weights.”
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV
It might not be a pretty race, there will be potholes and hurdles, but Hebrews 12 reminds us, we can run it well if our eyes don’t stray from the Person waiting at the finish line. The faithful of Hebrews 11, “of whom the world was not worthy,” testify to whom they ran toward. The goal kept them faithful runners.
“…looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV
I have known many faithful-to-the-end runners. You may as well. Their examples admonish us to lessen the weights, abandon sin, and keep our eyes straight ahead, where they belong. They compel us to ask ourselves, “what am I in love with?” The answer to that reveals our focus.
We cross the line in power chairs, crutches, stretchers, and some carried on the backs of others. Young, old and in-between, we help hold up one other and encourage each other to do the same. This is how the body runs victoriously.
“I won!” declares my grandson, taller, older, faster and leader of the race.
I see my younger five-year-old grandson’s face begin to crumble. For just a moment think I might need to step in. But big brother sees it too, and his gentle heart responds. He immediately steps to put an arm around his little brother and justly declares with triumph, “We both did!”
*feature photo by Philip Schroeder
Just wait a few years… the younger may just be faster than the elder.
Oh yes. It happens!
As I begin this new decade of my life, the 70s, this post inspired and challenged me. I’m not done yet. Thank you for reminding me to always keep my eyes on Jesus as I continue this race. Whatever lies ahead I desire to finish well. Thank you for continuing to inspire and bless me and many others.
Thank you Marcella. It is an absolute blessing to hear from you! Happy Birthday! It is a journey isn’t it?!
Cleo J Waters
You have offered yet another great reminder! Thank you. Life is a big race and sometimes it is easy to lose sight of our goal. It is so wonderful to have those among us who keep us focused! Thank you.
Thank you Cleo. Racing to the finish!
Amen my sweet friend, “we both win” when we run the race together. There’s been times when I’ve stumbled and fell in my faith, and I’m ever thankful there were “Heroes of Faith” who stopped, took time to pick me up, dust me off, and help me along until I was able to find my pace again. Like you, it’s been parents, siblings, and dear and precious friends like yourself. I think God smiles when He sees one of His dear children helping one along who may be struggling. Your grace-filled words brought a wonderful smile this morning. God’s blessings ma’am.
Thank you J.D. It’s so easy for me to try to run alone. Grateful God has put encouragers into my life to pick me up and go the mile with me. You are certainly one with the gift of encouragement. Thanks!
Love it!! We both have the joy of grandchildren. We are now at 12!! May we, as their family, be examples of those who make it to the finish line with joy in the journey.
Thanks Linda. How many times you’ve picked me up!
The race may seem difficult while we run it, but racing through this life without Christ would be harder. We can persevere by keeping our eyes on the finish line.
I am so glad I can know He is by my side! Thanks Barbara.
Bob & Fritzie Strong
Having served 45+ years on the field, there have been some very discouraging moments, caused by our sin, or by problems with other missionaries, etc. But we’re thankful that the Lord’s faithfulness prevented us from “throwing in the towel” and quitting. Good article!
Thanks, Sylvia. Are those Justin’s boys? So sweet–loved the ending! Ya, sometimes hard to keep going.
Barb, thanks! I’m glad you liked it. The going isn’t always easy, is it!! Grateful for God’s presence through the miles.
Thanks Bob. I’m thankful for your years of service. God has been faithful. It was great seeing you on field and at the conference! I appreciate you reading and responding!
Such a sweet story, Sylvia. We truly do need to look out for each other. Crossing that finish line with a gang will be awesome!
What a lovely thought, Annie, of crossing together with a gang! Locked arms keeps us moving!
Thanks Sylvia for a great message. I didn’t start writing until into my 50s so I keep reminding myself that God’s not done with me yet
Yvonne, I need that same reminder, God is not done with me yet! Thank you!
Nancy E. Head
So glad to see big brother step up with kindness. Thanks for this insight, Sylvia. God bless!
I know. He is a sweet boy. And it was such an important reminder to me as well. Running the race is helped with encouragement. Thanks Nancy.
I love the picture you give of the cloud of witnesses cheering us on. So good.
Thank Jennifer. It’s a picture I enjoy thinking about!
Loved this message, Sylvia. It’s filled with hope, inspiration, joy, and tugs at the heart strings when big brother shows his love. Such a day brightener! Thank you.
Thanks so much for your encouragement, as a New Year begins!
Thanks Gladys! A New Year always begins with some trepidation for me, and this one has its share too. So grateful we don’t walk alone. Thanks for reading and I appreciate hearing from you!