“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 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 is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.”
– Hebrews 12:1-3
For as long as I can remember, I have always heard people quote this passage of scripture (especially verse one). As a result, I often quoted it whenever I got myself involved in a race that required constant encouragement. However, it wasn’t until recently when I truly learned the purpose of this scripture. It is not for the races that we get ourselves involved in, rather it is for the races which God has called us into and chosen us to be a part of for His purpose and His glory. Note: Keep in mind that the purpose of this Part One article is to simply break the ice regarding the passage above; however, Part Two is when we will really break down the scripture or passage and discover how to effectively put it into action in our lives.
Just a moment ago I made mention of something: I said that I used to quote this scripture whenever I got myself involved in a race that required constant encouragement. The part that I neglected to mention is that most of those races I would end up losing or growing tired of the process and never fully obtaining or reaching the overall end result. Why? It seemed as if although I was in the race, the race that I was in was not in me. For some, that just doesn’t make sense. Nevertheless, I will attempt to make it plain for you. Most of the races that people get involved in and begin running require a certain amount of passion and drive on behalf of the individual. That’s how the individual gets a sense of pleasure and enjoyment from the race. Watch this. To the person running the race for their enjoyment and pleasure, it doesn’t matter the time they cross the finish line at, it doesn’t matter whether they get first place or not, and it doesn’t matter who else seems to be running the race with them. All that matters is that they finish. Whether they got the slowest time, came in second to last, or even had to slow up for a moment to catch their breath: The only part that is of much concern is, did I finish? Why? That determines my ability to say mission accomplished or goal complete.
Today, we do not get into races simply for enjoyment or our heart’s pleasure. We enter into races for competition, to be seen, and to prove to ourself or somebody else that we are the best. Often times when we get involved in these types of races, we have the tendency to call on God and say a prayer in hopes that He will cause us to win. We even have the audacity to try and manipulate the true definition of faith by tagging it on to said prayer. “Lord I have the faith that such and such will work out in my favor. I have the faith that this and that will be profitable for me. I believe that by the end of this race I will see the salvation of the Lord because I shall not faint.” Little to none do these types of people ever stop and ask themselves, Who told you to run or get involved in that race? I know you don’t like it, but it has to be said. However, just let that marinate for a moment and we’ll come back around to it.
With all that being said, I know you may be asking yourself what race am I supposed to be running in? I’m glad you did. In the passage that we have before us today, it addresses the race we ought to first and foremost be concerned with running. Can I give you the first suggestion of the article? The race that should be our primary focus is the race that God has called you into. How did you come up with that Kean? The first scripture says that we are to run with patience the race “set before us.” Before God birth us into this earthly vessel that we are in, He placed a specific assignment, task, destiny, or race inside of each and everyone of us. Jeremiah 1:5 tells us that before we formed in the belly of our mothers God knew us. Romans 8:29-30 tells us that those whom He knew, He predestined to be conformed into the image of his Son; those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified. In other words, those who are called according to His purpose (which includes all of us whose desire is to work the work of the father) should be in search of our race. How? The older we get, the more concerned we ought to be with drawing nearer and nearer to God. The closer we get to God, the more aware we should become of exactly what said race is for us. Once you are made aware of that race, the more your passion and pursuit in life should be to finish and successfully complete said race.
Now, we have reached a point where our topic comes into play. When you get involved in the race that God has set before you, there are going to be some serious obstacles that you will face. Again, this is not for races that we get ourselves into. These obstacles will seem as if their there to signal that the path that you are on is not the correct path. They will even attempt to get you to prematurely end the race; however, it is in those times that we must have a strong mindset and great tenacity to resolve within ourselves that come hell or high water I will Steady The Course. In our text above it makes mention of being surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. Can I make a second suggestion? This cloud of witness are those great men and women of God who have gone ahead of us or before us, accepted the call of God for their said race, and ran with both endurance and perseverance the race that was set before them. They didn’t stop there. How do I know this? The Bible refers to them as witnesses, which means that they have first hand knowledge and experience of what it takes to run, endure, and complete Godly races. Therefore, as a result of their knowledge and experience, God has qualified them to be witnesses and examples of how to run our own race. Question: Are the people that you are looking up to for leadership and examples concerning your race qualified to have that position, or did you just find someone who has the appearance of being able to be an example without them having any experience of the matter?
I know some of us are still struggling to determine whether or not the people we have given the power to be examples for us actually possess the qualification to do such; therefore, allow me a moment more to work with it. Often times we look wholly at the outward appearance of people in order to qualify them for positions in our life. Rarely does anyone take the time to truly examine the life of an individual before giving them positions. For example, many of us believe that God wants us to have a prosperous and victorious life, and there is nothing wrong with that. As a result, we look for people who have the houses, cars, money, clothes, and all the fancy things that comes along with it. How often do you ask yourself, how did they get it? Did they do it the Godly way or the way of the world? Did they suffer for it or did they inflict suffering on others for it (backbiting, deceiving, conning, stepping on others, etc)? Believe it or not there is a perverse way of obtaining it, but there are also biblical standards that have to be met in order to possess it. Since you brought it up, there is a difference between obtain and possess. To obtain is to get hold of it any way necessary whereas to possess is to have ownership or control over it. One comes easy which means it can also leave just as easily. The other comes by way of hard work, dedication, suffering, timeliness, sweat, and tears. Need more clarification? One can be taken away, while the other cannot be taken away lest the owner is willing to lay it down. Reminds me of the time when Jesus was speaking to the people and they were not getting it, so he broke down for down and said, no man can take my life unless I lay it down of my own accord. He then said, if I lay it down know that I also have the power to take it back up again (John 10:18).
As I bring this first part into a close, I want to leave you with a nugget. I wanted to give this article the topic of “Stay The Course.” However, God had me to replace “stay” with “steady.” Why? The key is in the definition of the two words. Stay means to remain in the same place or specified position. Steady means to be firmly fixed and balanced without moving or shaking. In other words, God is saying this road that He has caused us to travel upon is supposed to be meant to alter your current position. It’s supposed to change your current place setting. It is a change of course, thereby making it a rerouting process to give you a new, improved, and God ordained expected end. So, don’t get to comfortable with where you are as long as you are on the course, because as you progress along the course so should your life. Shout cue on the way! God said, “There are some things that are going to happen to you that will try to get you to alter or make adjustments to the course that I have set you upon, but be not distracted by them. They are deceptions of the devil that he will try to use to cause you to lose focus and abruptly end your course. Instead, steady the course by fixing your eyes not on what is going on around you; instead, place them on the things which I have set before you and told you that you are coming into.” You missed it!
God is saying that in this life you will be tempted by the enemy on many different levels as long as you are on the course, but look not to the right or the left. Instead, fix your eyes on the prize while looking to the hills from which your help cometh. Don’t stay and engage in the temptations of the enemy. Don’t move or shake because the road gets a little hard and a bit bumpy, rather balance yourself and be firmly fixed that no matter what comes my way I am going to keep on walking and keep on moving along the course. Why? Eventually, if I faint not, I will see the salvation of the Lord and come into possession of the promises that He has waiting for me! So, your homework is to examine your life and determine whether you are in the proper race, examine whether you have the correct witnesses in place, examine whether you are stagnate or steady along the path, and examine your overall mindset concerning the way in which you run the race. Do you run with anxiety or patience? Do you run with fear or perseverance? Last, but certainly not least, prepare your hearts for what’s to come regarding the text above in next week’s article. You don’t want to miss it! Be blessed and stay encouraged!