"…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. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
Paul begins the twelfth chapter in Hebrews by telling the reader to lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and for us to run with endurance the race that is set before us fixing our eyes on Jesus. Even though Paul is referring to our spiritual lives and the race of life we are all in, it is a principle I have found to be true living most of my life as an endurance runner. I truly do have to focus on finishing whatever the distance might be. You can never allow yourself to entertain the thought of quitting. You must rule out that option at the start. You must set your heart before the race begins, and not focus on the beginning, but finishing. What defines success is how you finish, not how you start. Most distance runners learn that the hard way.
As I was meditating on this truth, Rehoboam came to mind in 2 Chronicles chapters 11 and 12. Rehoboam was the son of Solomon. His legacy is not a very good one, because he did not set his heart in the right place. Therefore, his eyes were not fixed on the finish. 2 Chronicles 12:14 tells us:
"He did evil because he did not set his heart to seek the Lord."
A simple verse, but a powerful truth we must heed, and learn from other’s mistakes and not allow them to become our own. Just as a runner we must set our hearts, before we start, on Jesus and determine to finish the race. Our eyes will follow what our hearts are set on.
Paul tells us to lay aside, or cast off everything that entangles us, and the sin that so easily besets us as we run the race. Rehoboam, like his father Solomon, forsook God’s law and acquired many wives and concubines that turned his heart from God, and into Canaanite idolatry. The legacy he left at the end of his life was that he did evil almost all his life, and was a terrible ruler, because from the start he did not set His heart to seek God and His ways. Therefore, all the people suffered while he was king. Proverbs 29:2 tells us:
"When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when a wicked man rules, people groan."
Another reality of distance running is it becomes more difficult the longer you run. The last several miles really test your heart. I know from experience nearing the end as the intensity increases, I have to become very focused on making it to that finish line no matter the cost. That is when I personally fix my eyes on Jesus for His mercy, grace, goodness, and strength He is always faithful to provide as long as I am willing to just take the next step. However, if I quit there will be no victorious finish.
I relate so well to Paul’s illustration, because I have lived it out multiple times in the races I have run and certainly in the race of life. Whether a physical or spiritual race the principle is still the same. My goal is to finish well and finish strong, remaining faithful to the God who is so faithful to me. I run as unto Him when I am running a physical race. If you have set your heart on loving Him and His Word above all else you cannot compartmentalize your life. He should be the center of all we do. 1 Corinthians 10:31 declares:
"Whether, then, you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."
If we look closely at our verse and we fix our eyes on Jesus, the example he left all of us requires a spirit of excellence. When did Jesus ever not give His all for the Father and for us? The scripture allows us to see His suffering while on this earth on our behalf. When we look at what Jesus endured for us it will put our mostly minimal suffering we experience in perspective. He was sinless. We aren’t. He suffered for others. Most of our suffering is due to our own sin. However, I take great comfort in knowing if I obey His Word and set my heart to please Him above all others, and truly live for an audience of one, He promises to be the author and perfecter of my faith and yours! Jesus, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross despising the shame, and He has now sat down at the right hand of God, His Father. Let us not grow weary and lose heart seeing the end result for Jesus’s suffering. God is a just God, and a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
I feel very strongly we may be nearing our finish line on this earth. I expect things to become much more difficult in this world. My heart grieves deeply for our sovereign nation that I love, and know many gave their lives for the freedoms we have taken for granted during our lifetime. But as a follower of Christ I am so excited to know that soon I will be home where Jesus and My Father are. I plan to occupy as we were instructed in His Word to do till His return. I am highly motivated, and I hope you are too, to shine light in the darkness and speak the truth of God’s Word to expel the lies of this world. I can honestly say there is nothing I cling to on this earth above the coming of my Savior and Lord. I hope that is true for you also. If not, let us heed the scripture, and set our hearts now to please God above all else, and fix our eyes on Jesus where there is always hope and love to enable us to endure to the finish. May we be able to declare with Paul:
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." (2 Timothy 4:7)
In His love.
One of my greatest joys in life is sharing the race Paul referred to with my clients and also to impart my love of running to them and see them rewarded for their hard work as in these photos. Jeff Roberts, Marilyn Hanks, and myself were all age group winners in the annual Mayberry Race in My Airy, NC today! So much to be thankful for!!