Hebrews 12:1-2 - Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Long distance running is not something to be taken lightly. There should be a lot of preparation. Physically, there should (of course) be the training miles, but then there must be the mental preparation that gives a runner confidence to complete the distance. I have seen so many "bonk" before they get to the finish line mainly because they had not adequately prepared for the distance. For a runner, mental ability can be as important as physical training and ability. If you first lose the will to run in the mind, then you will lose the will to run where the shoe (or in my case the sole) hits the road.
So often I hear Hebrews 12:1-2 quoted in regard to running and endurance sports. It is a wonderful couple of verses that give us a mental image of a runner persevering with all intention of crossing the finish line. Of course, this is a metaphor for the race that Christians must run to compete for the heavenly prize of the upward call of Christ Jesus. As with runners that have prepared themselves only physically for the challenge of the long distance run, I see so many Christians who have not taken the time to complete the more important part of the verse that precedes "running with endurance".
Many "believers" line up at the proverbial start line of their Christian faith not understanding the course laid out before them. They don't understand that merely confessing Christ as their Savior and giving up this or that for Him is sufficient to "run" through life and be happy, joyous, and free. They may experience these feelings for a while, but when the race begins to be arduous they will falter in their faith. Jesus Christ does not expect us to run the race in our own strength or power, and He knows that we will never have the endurance to finish as we should without addressing EVERYTHING that is opposed to his Spirit and Life. "Encumbrances" as defined by Webster are things that are burdensome or a hindrance. Daily, we have opportunity to please the Lord with lives of obedience or by living selfishly ambitious for our own goals. The truly sanctified believer knows the momentary pain of "laying aside" something that they might love, yet is a hindrance to their walk with the Lord. I say momentary, because once a point of obedience is acknowledged and then "walked in", then the Christian is truly happier and more fulfilled by making that decision. Obedience, or the lack of, will be the one huge determiner whether or not we have the strength and power to run with endurance the race before us. Some may put on a show that they are running life's race in His power, but in time it will show differently when they lose the love and commitment for their Lord and others.
In marathoning, I like to carry a few gel packs with me for needed energy bursts. These are small collapsible aluminum packs of carbohydrate concoctions made with fruit or syrups. They give a runner that needed kick to keep going when the going gets tough. Christ provides us "spiritual gel packs" during our life race that are filled with the ingredients to keep on keeping on. Things such as hope, faith, and love that are jam-packed in His containers of wisdom that we know when to draw on at the most critical moments of our own race. However, I used the operative word "provide". He will only give us these needed stores through our obedience to His word and how he wants each and every one of us to walk our individual Christian lives. It is remarkable what may or may not work for a runner. Just because God has told me to do a certain thing in my walk with Him, does not mean that He will tell another the same thing. We are uniquely individual to our Lord, so therefore He deals with us as individuals for the more concentrated areas of obedience. This is the secret of individual sanctification. One will never reach their own by modeling after another's life.
The race is before all of us who believe. For those of you who are doubters and unbelievers, I encourage you to line up with us and start your own endurance race with the Lord. For those who would seek a shallow relationship with their God and then try to complete the race set before them, they will not be able to finish strong in the Lord because the Word says they will be encumbered and hindered along the course. Life will be full of compromises that would seek to distract us from the race set before us. No manner or amount of human endurance will allow us to finish the course as Jesus would desire. Endurance, in and of itself will always leave us coming up short of the finish line. We will by all means need to understand that Jesus is our Coach and He is the One that will provide the energy and fortitude along the way. May we all find His hope, His faith, His love along the way that will propel us to complete the wonderful course before us. Without Him as our Provider, we will truly fail, but with Him we can only win the race set before us.
Your Barefoot Servant,