I’ve never been much of a runner, though I can understand how it could become a satisfying daily habit —the endorphin rush and all. For me though, it could usually be said that if you see me running, something or someone might be chasing me, or I’m trying to get out of the rain.
But the biblical metaphor of running appeals to me very much. Particularly, my attention has been drawn lately to the references in Hebrews 12. This is one of my favorite chapters in the whole Bible.
After reminding the reader of the many witnesses to the life of faith mentioned in Chapter 11, and admonishing us to cast aside every sin or “encumbrance” that might hinder us, the writer prompts us to:
“Run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”
The King James calls Jesus “the author and finisher” here. I like the NLT’s simpler handling of the phrase, “Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish.”
Here’s the picture. Jesus ran his race first, perfectly, and then calls us to show up and run.
How is it that we are qualified to enter such a race? Only because he qualifies us. Because he ran it first, he opened the way for us to follow him.
It’s a bit like the PGA golf rules. I have a fairly limited knowledge of the world of golf, but I know that the pros really want to win major tournaments, not only for the singular wins and prize money, but because it gives them automatic admission to future tournaments for which it can be hard to qualify.
Jesus went beyond Phil Mickelson—he not only demonstrated his own qualifications but allows us to compete on the basis of his big win!
When we embrace the challenge of following Jesus into the race, he even outfits us. He gives us the Jesus t-shirt. He gives us the Holy Spirit’s breath inside us. Without this, we’d fail before we even got started.
So, we start running.
I started running this race around 1983, and have been running it ever since, sometimes quickly and strenuously, sometimes slowly and steadily like the old turtle, and mostly somewhere in between. Staying with the pack, not too far ahead of most or lagging behind.
I’ve accomplished a few things in this life. I’ve stayed married to the same man for a heck of a long time. I’ve earned a few degrees, played a lot of gigs, and have taught and counseled and helped some people.
Nothing else comes close to the satisfaction of simply knowing that I’ve stayed in the race with Jesus. I haven’t quit. And I salute all of you reading this who have also stayed in the race. It’s not easy.
.Jesus is the one on whom our faith “depends from start to finish.” Running alongside our friends just sweetens the pot.
How do we keep going? It is exhausting. Sometimes we just want to sit on the sidelines and watch others for a while.
But Jesus gives us no place to sit out. Even if we have to pace ourselves while we chug some water and regather our inner resources, we must keep running.
And there he is ahead. His eyes, his strength and grace, his loving encouragement. His example. He cheers us on. He reminds us that there’s a prize at the end, and this gives us the perseverance we need.
This is a life of discipline, so it is fitting that the rest of Hebrews 12 is all about discipline. Don’t despise it, the author says. Remember that you’re disciplined because God is a Father, and good fathers discipline their children. “God’s discipline is always right and good for us because it means we will share in his holiness.”
The more we practice God’s discipline, the better we become at running with him. Jesus qualified us when he saved us, so we don’t have to earn our way into the race. But once we start running, he trains and coaches us so that we become better runners. Swifter, stronger, focused, clean, and free.