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.
Hebrews 12:1-2, emphasis added
The Winter Olympics are coming up in about a month, and I’m excited for the uniqueness these games bring to our living rooms each night. The bobsled teams racing down the track at blurring speeds, ski jumpers soaring through the air, speed skaters meticulously planning their passes, and curling teams playing the most entertaining game of shuffleboard of all time. I was reading a little about the Games this week, and found that the average Olympian trains four hours a day for 310 days a year for six years before making it to the Olympics. All that translates to over 7,000 hours of training for an event that could last less than sixty seconds. Incredible!
These athletes trained for years upon years to perfect their skills, hone their discipline, and build incredible endurance. Similarly, I believe we need to do the same as we run the race set before us by God. The apostle Paul said as much in his encouragement to his young protégé Timothy when he wrote “train yourself in godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7 HCSB). Living the life of faith can truly be a grueling race at times when we face seemingly unsurmountable obstacles, but if we keep our eyes on Jesus and the examples He set for us, we can find the endurance needed to keep running.
First, a little definition. Endurance is defined as the power to suffer patiently an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way. That is a much richer definition than I would have given, but it puts into perspective what is meant by the above verse. At times during the race God sets before us, we will encounter unpleasant or difficult situations through which we must suffer patiently without giving way. But how do we do it? The answer is found in verse two: “by keeping our eyes on Jesus…” and the example of endurance building He set for us.
We build our endurance for the race through taking care of our bodies (rest, Sabbath), consistent and ongoing prayer and Bible reading, service to others, and worship. Each of these disciplines were put on full display by Jesus during His time on earth and helped Him endure more than anyone else in human history. Think about it, He was born to a poor unwed mother in a stable, His life was threatened as a baby to the extent He had to leave the country, He was raised in the undesirable town of Nazareth, and many believe His father died when He was young. Many times He had no place to lay His head, and He was hated and opposed by others, including family and people from His hometown. He was accused of being insane, demon-possessed, and a blasphemer. He was betrayed by a close friend, left alone by other friends, and taken to court on false charges where he received a bogus trial. He was whipped, beaten, spit on, cursed at, laughed at, and was executed as a common criminal by crucifixion…yet He endured it all for us.
My prayer this week is that we can all keep our eyes on Jesus and the example of endurance He set for us when we feel worn out, defeated, and on the verge of quitting our race.