In the first post in this series, I explained that while running recently I was reminded of several passages related to running a race and athletes. Since I started running for exercise a few months ago, I decided to look into those passages a little more closely to see if my experiences helped me to understand them.
In this post, I’m going to look at another running illustration, this one used in the Book of Hebrews. Here is the verse in the broader context:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)
The author has just reminded his readers of the faith of several historic and scriptural figures (Hebrews 11). In each case, the person trusted God in spite of problem, suffering, persecution, and even death. There was a reason for this reminder: the readers needed to trust God in spite of suffering and persecution as well. (See Hebrews 12:4.)
Now, the author uses the illustration of an endurance race (that is, a long distance run) to encourage his readers to persevere in spite of the problems they are facing. There is a path “set before” the readers, and they are to run down that path, regardless of what happens to them. They are to run with “endurance” or “patience, steadfastness, perseverance.” In other words, they are to keep on running and not stop regardless of what happens to them.
In order to encourage his readers, the author reminds them of the race that Jesus ran. He is given as their example in persevering in the race in spite of suffering or persecution. (This isn’t the only thing the author says about Jesus, but it shouldn’t be ignored as we study Jesus as high priest, sacrifice, mediator, etc.)
I haven’t run very long distances yet. My longest run so far is 7.5 miles. Of course, a couple of months ago, 7.5 miles might as well have been 750 miles. While running longer and longer distances (from less than 1 mile at a time in August to 4-5 miles in September, to 7.5 miles last weekend), I have learned a little more about what it means to keep on running in spite of problems. I imagine that I will continue to face problems and will continue to need perseverance as I run even longer distances.
A friend of mine is planning to run a 1/2 marathon in a few weeks, and another friend is running a marathon that same day. To be honest, I think I might be able to run a 1/2 marathon one day, but a full marathon seems out of reach. What would it take for me to be able to run a 1/2 marathon or a marathon? Perseverance.
Of course, there is so much more than we can talk about from this short passage. For example, we could also talk about the obstacles that should be removed and the things that a runner could be entangled in. But, that will have to wait for another day.
What would you like to add to this discussion?
Running the Race as an Illustration in Scripture: