“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.
Hebrews 12:1-3 (NLT)
My wife, Kristy, and I have some big goals for 2018. We want to finally pay off our debt that we accrued as irresponsible newlyweds, better disciple and parent our two kids, and generally love one another better. There is one problem, though. We are both great at making plans, but not overly gifted at consistently implementing them in our everyday lives. We get tripped-up, distracted, lazy. We take our eye off the prize for the temporary satisfaction of the “here and now.”
The same is so often true of our spiritual lives as well. A faith-filled life does not equate to a life free of pain, heartbreak, struggle, and difficulty. The description of our spiritual journey given by the writer of Hebrews sounds more like a race we run with a weighted vest through a course marked by challenging hills, fallen tree branches, and a multitude of other challenging obstacles. Despite the honesty of this description, we are also given a game plan by which to train and successfully finish the race: keep our eyes on Jesus.
So many people (a few noted in Hebrews 11) have run this course before us, braving the difficulties, eluding the hazards, overcoming the obstacles, with great focus on the grand prize of eternal life with our Creator. We can do the same, but our focus must remain steadfast. This year, this leg of the race, will throw seemingly insurmountable obstacles at you, but focus on the ultimate champion, Jesus, who endured undeserved indignity, hostility, and pain because of the future joy of our salvation.
I love verse 3: “Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.” My translation: “When you think you can’t do it anymore, think of all Jesus has done for us when we didn’t deserve anything; suck it up and keep fighting forward.” Happy New Year to each of you. I pray not only for all things good in your life, but also for endurance to run the race.