31 March 2021
Reasons to Endure
Reading: Hebrews 12: 1 – 3
Scripture: “…let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us…” (Hebrews 12:1)
Reflection: Nowhere in the Bible does it say that the Christian life will be easy. In fact, the opposite is often true. Knowing that it is always going to be a pilgrimage and that we will encounter setbacks, undergo challenges, endure trials and overcome obstacles on our journey of faith, we might be tempted to quit on God, thinking that it takes too much effort and so we should just give up.
In today’s reading, the writer of the letter to the Hebrews is encouraging the recent converts from Judaism to Christianity to persevere in the Christian faith. Because of their new-found values and lifestyle, they were undergoing a terrible time of trial and persecution which resulted in their “marginalization, humiliation and rejection”. In the face of violent opposition, ridicule, and discrimination, these weary, hurting believers struggled to maintain their faith, so the writer encourages them to turn “discouragement into perseverance” remain faithful to the Lord, to stay the course and press on.
Using the familiar imagery of athletics, the writer compares the Christian life to a race – not a sprint, but a marathon; a race that requires more conditioning, preparation, strategy, stamina, patience and endurance. This morning, I am in no physical shape to run a marathon, but, together, we may be in some kind of spiritual shape to run in a Christian race. So, we are going to look around for the many who may have fallen behind, whose steps may be faltering, and by applying the demonstrations of enduring faith highlighted here, encourage the slow starters to turn “discouragement into perseverance” to stay in the race and press on towards the prize.
Are you a believer? Then you have entered the race. Now the hard work begins. But we don’t have to do this all on our own, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses. These Old Testament “Heroes of the Faith” who suffered and died in their generations, now provide inspiration as we run our race. They are not there just to watch us and cheer us on, but to bear witness to what God has done, to remind that they too once led a life of faith and to encourage us to follow in their steps. They have run their race, received their reward and proved that God is reliable and faithful.
Of course, before we get to the finish line, we are going to have to remove any obstacles from our path. We will never reach our full potential for the Lord until and unless we are willing to make the preparations and the sacrifices necessary for running the race, that is, anything that hinders our walk with God. Who runs a marathon in a suit? You train with weights but you don’t run with them. Hebrews tells us to, “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so entangles”, Sin holds us back and slows us down. Even seemingly ‘innocent’ things can hinder our walk with God and bring us to our knees. You know where you are weak and anything that does not make us stronger in the Lord or help to build up our relationship with Him, must be removed from our lives. However, our choices are not always simply between right and wrong, but between something that may or may not hinder us. Some sins and hindrances can be easily avoided, some, not so much; some are admired, yet must be laid aside while those that entrap are especially harmful. We cannot do this on our own so let us invite the Holy Spirit to give us power to examine our lives and to lay aside all those things which drag us down.
Run the race with endurance! Settle in for the long haul! Never give up and finish what you have started. We must run the race that is set before us, the one specially designed for each of us. We must stay in our own lane; and remember that we are on the same team. We are not competing against each other; we are running for Jesus, the race He has planned for each of us, to the best of our individual abilities.
What are our strategies? Don’t be distracted by those running beside or behind. If we do we will stumble and fall. Instead, we must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the One who entered us in this race, the author and finisher of our faith. Jesus ran the perfect race and set the ultimate example of Christian endurance for us. He kept His eye on the prize and He ran until He reached the finish line, achieved His goal – the redemption and salvation of all believers, sin destroyed and righteousness ruling in every heart.
So, when your spirits are low, your energy is flagging, your muscles are straining, and you are so weary you think you cannot run one step more, what must you do? Fix your eyes upon Jesus and remember the race He ran for you. Then, run, Christian, run.
Meditation: How is your race progressing? Do you need encouragement? Stop looking at the circumstances under which you are running; get rid of the weights and the sins; run your own race and fix your eyes upon Jesus. What are you waiting for?
Prayer: Heavenly Father,help us to run our race such that when we reach the finish line, we will each be able to say with Apostle Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”. Amen.
The St. Jude’s Writers
St. Jude’s Church
Anglican Diocese of Jamaica and The Cayman Islands
31 March 2021