“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3, NIV)
Here in the south college football is king—particularly the SEC. Our alma mater, which we watch and root for, happens to bear the colors of maroon and white and has a handsome collie dog, Reveille, as its mascot. What is it about our team, or do other teams do the same thing? All of a sudden, with fans behind them and millions viewing on TV, they start running out of oomph in the fourth quarter. They don’t finish strong. Why do we vigorously give our best in something and then all of a sudden we falter and fail?
Numerous times in my life, I’ve taken on an endeavor that starts out with a bang with which I later grow weary. More often than I care to admit, I give it up, take some time off, and then turn my attentions to something new. I realize our Lord takes us through different seasons, and our circumstances and focus will shift as He directs, but all too often my mind wanders and a lackadaisical attitude starts slipping in. That’s when I’m vulnerable and easily sacked.
Or, we’re going strong and arrogance muscles in. Usually we’re thinking a particular project is impressive—wow, look what I did! Our reliance on God lessens as we perform in our own power. Taking credit for ourselves for what God has done, it usually doesn’t take long to start fumbling.
Why do we squander our lead? Is it due to pride and thinking we have everything under control? Or, are we simply lazy?
Today’s scripture passage sets the stage of an athletic stadium filled with former champions of the faith, including Abraham and Moses, cited in Hebrews 11. I refer to them as the Faithful Hall of Fame, and they’re not merely spectators, but examples for us, exhorting us to give our best. They are cheering us on!
The writer instructs us to get rid of the encumbrances that get in the way. Just as the opposing team tackles us and keeps a hold on us until we’re down, sin is waiting to snare us. The enemy doesn’t want us to finish and he will use any means to distract us, including pride and difficulties. Sin is a heavy weight that slows us down and clings to us. A winning team throws off the opposition when being tackled.
Whether you’re envisioning a track and field event or a football game, the calling of an athlete is to exhibit endurance, to stay the course, and to finish strong. Strong athletes don’t abandon the game, but rather grind it out. Also, we can’t assume victory. The race requires stamina and we are to remain faithful, as our Christian saints who went before us did.
Remaining centered and concentrating on Jesus Christ, we will find Him as our source of strength and ability. He alone mobilizes us in our race. Pride and looking to do the task in our own power just doesn’t work. We complete the pass when Jesus is our quarterback.
Only prayer, abiding in God’s Word, and relying on the Holy Spirit will disqualify the opposition. The enemy wants us to become careless and not give our best, and eventually give up. Let’s remember what Jesus suffered for us and stay focused on Him. His opposition was hostile.
Kickoff has occurred. Now we need to catch the pass, run with the ball, and cross the finish line. Touchdown!
Father God, I submit my intentions to you. I cannot run this race without you as my champion. Help me when I grow lethargic or prideful. I do this for you and I desire to complete the task and finish strong—I do not want to squander my lead. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Proverbs 16:18 (NIV): “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”
1 Corinthians 9:24 (NIV): “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”
Hebrews 6:12 (NIV): “We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.”
Hebrews 10:36 (NIV): “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.”
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