Run Your Race - But Do You Know Your Prize?
12 "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, 2 looking unto Jesus, the [a]author and [b]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 Chapter 12: 1-2
Like it or not, we are all running our own race. That race isn't even a competition with other believers or non-believers in God's Word. It isn't even a race against time, although we all have a certain amount of time here on Earth. Although the world wants you to think it's a competition between you and everyone else, life's race is actually a competition within yourself. It isn't some sprint to the finish, either. The words shown above, from the opening verses of Hebrews Chapter 12, give a hopeful motivation for running that race, and setting your own personal best record. Best being, the absolute best version of yourself. Running your life's race is all about seeing how much you can endure, and become better for it.
In just the second verse, we learn that Jesus, described here as the "finisher of our faith," found joy in the suffering He endured on the cross. If you've never read the details behind the crucifixion, I strongly recommend it. Perhaps knowing those details can help one find an understanding of true endurance. Why would someone like the Son of God find joy in His suffering, by enduring such pain? Look at where He ended up; "at the right hand of the throne of God!" Not only that, but His ultimate sacrifice allowed the possibility for salvation for us all. Christ's story alone should help everyone appreciate suffering. But let's take another look at the verses.
When looking at God's Word, we should remember that God said He created mankind in His image. The second verse in chapter 12 of Hebrews says that Jesus is the finisher of our faith. Look at How he finished! And His race isn't really over yet; he just defeated the first leg of His race by resurrecting Himself over death! Yet He is still going to come back again, for His ultimate victory lap after casting Satan into the Lake of Fire. I include this information to allude to us being the image bearers of God. If we are to strive to 'do what Jesus would do,' don't you think we should pursue a finish worthy of God's blessings, the same way Jesus did? Does that mean we bear our own cross? Metaphorically speaking, I say yes! Look at all the examples from the "cloud of witnesses" mentioned in verse 1 of chapter 12. Those witnesses are all the great 'heroes' of the Bible, who all bore some kind of 'cross,' suffering in some way to bring about God's glory; not their own. And yet, only Jesus' sacrifice was sufficient for our salvation. The apostles knew this, and still bore their cross - some of them in the literal sense!
And yet, the verses here also impart wisdom. For although we are all expected to suffer in some way for our faith in Jesus, there are things we can do to lighten the burden of that suffering. What is the first reference to this? The first thing mentioned is weight - or burden. What do most runners wear when they run, especially if they want to last a while in a single race? Do they bulk up, and wear a lot of extra clothes? No, they shed heavier clothing, and wear light weight material. They usually run in shorts, and they make sure they wear good footwear. What is heavy on your heart right now? Could such a burden keep you from running your race the way the good Lord wants you to run it? What about sin? Are there sins in your life that hinder your ability to run the race?
Now here's the kicker. Like I said before, everyone is running their own race. But scripture is pretty clear: "For God so loved the world, that whosoever believes in Him, shall have everlasting life." - Many people will recognize that as John 3:16. There is just part of the great prize for enduring the race; everlasting life. But you must believe in Christ; that is the true design of the race. If you happen to fall into any other reason to run the race, but do not include the faith in Jesus, then your race is truly a lost cause.
I know it almost sounds too simple. And there are other facets of one's faith we can always discuss. But the fact remains, that according to God's Word, in order to run our race, and receive that ultimate prize of eternal life with God, we have to cast aside a life of sin (or turn from it; repent), and we have to put our faith in Jesus. And then we have to do our part and tell others about it. Don't you see? This gives every single person on the planet a purpose; a unique and divine purpose. Each and every single one of us has the opportunity to serve something bigger than ourselves. The more we strive to run our race the way Jesus ran His race, the more glory goes to God, not us. And therein lies the purpose for it all.
So, no, it's not rocket science. The world wants everyone to think it's harder than that; that life is way more complicated than that. But God tells us, even in the book of Job, that the devil roams all around the world, and that it is his place to roam and devour for a while. Nobody wants Satan's domain to be their ultimate prize... not if they're honest with themselves and God. But pride is a funny thing, isn't it?
I don't know about you, but I plan on continuing to run my race to receive the ultimate prize - and I sure as heck don't want to think it was all for nothing. Faith in Jesus sounds like a reasonable request, since the Creator of the universe says what all the suffering is for anyway. And if all those witnesses who came before me were normal and broken people just like me, I might as well give it my best.