In the book of Hebrews, the author gives us a Hall of Faith chapter (Heb 11:1-40). What a list of inspiring people is presented in this chapter. Each lived a faithful life and finished well. In the following chapter, he uses the analogy of a race to help us prepare for the most critical race we will ever run. Those who have already run this race are cheering for us from the stands. Then, in the first three verses, he tells us how to run this race.
First, strip away any sin in our lives that entangles us. That is an apt description of all sin because it trips us up. We are encouraged to tear those sins away in preparation for running the race the way a runner would strip away his outer clothing. Not all sin is as ensnaring to each of us because we are more vulnerable to certain sins. It is precisely those sins we must be aware of and strip them away so we can run the race.
Secondly, strip away the hindrances. These hindrances may not be a sin, but if they hold us back from running, they are deadly. It could be a relationship, a habit, or even an enjoyment. If it slows us down or causes us to drop out of the race of life—then it is a bad thing.
Thirdly, run the race with perseverance. This race is not a sprint—it is a grueling marathon! It’s the runners who know how to pace themselves and keep plodding who finish the race. The race we run is never a straight line with shade trees and places of oasis along every mile. Some of us encounter barren stretches. Some climb mountains while others prod plains, but to each is our race. Our job is to run the race that is marked out for each of us.
Fourthly, focus on Jesus. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus grew tired and got hungry but never stopped running his race. We are commanded to run the race looking at him and run the way he did. We need a model to show us how to do it, and Jesus is that example. The writer says to consider Jesus’ attitude and how he responded to mean and sinful men when they did terrible things to him. Jesus looked at the joy set before him because this helped him to set aside the humiliation of enduring the shame of the cross. I remember how the task of teaching my daughter, Carin, to ride a bike was not the easiest task in the world. She would do all right as long as she knew my hand was on the back of the bike. If she ever looked back and saw that I had taken my hand off or that I had stopped running behind her, she would tumble over. We had so many crashes because of that. After many tries, I decided to get her started and run ahead of her so that she would follow me, and it worked. The results were immediate. I became her goal on which she could focus, and in so doing, she was able to keep her balance. This is how we are to run the race—looking at Jesus every step of the way.