Daily Archives: November 13, 2020
Psalm 19:2-5 (NRSV)
2 Day to day pours forth speech,
and night to night declares knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words;
their voice is not heard;
4 yet their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun,
5 which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy,
and like a strong man runs its course with joy.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
I am a runner. Now it would be a stretch to say that I enjoy running. There are days where it pushes me to the limits of my physical endurance. Even though I wouldn’t say that I love to run, I can’t NOT run (sorry about the double-negative). I know, for my health, running is a good thing for me. I am not just speaking about my physical health either. Running has been a saving grace for me emotionally and spiritually as well. There are days, as odd as it may sound, I need to run as much as I need the oxygen that I breathe.
If there is one thing that I know about running – you have to pace yourself. If you do not pace yourself, you will not be able to achieve the goals that you have before you. For me, every year, the Army tells me the goal I have: I have to run two miles in an allotted time. If I do not achieve that goal, I do not pass my Army Physical Fitness Test. For me, that means, I cannot run at too slow of a pace or I will not complete my two miles in the allotted time. On the other side of that coin, I cannot take off at too fast of a pace or I won’t have the endurance that I need to complete the run in the time I need to. Runners know that it is all about the pace if one is to endure and finish the race.
It appears that Paul is all too familiar with this concept with this passage in Hebrews, as he uses the runner’s analogy quite well. Why is this lesson in Hebrews so important? First and foremost, Jesus himself said that not everyone would finish the race of faith. It is not an easy task to take up a cross, deny one’s self, and follow Jesus. The true life of a sold-out disciple takes a lot of hard work and if one does not pace themselves, at best, they will limp over the finish line. It takes building endurance for this race of faith. How do we build this endurance? We need to have a healthy prayer life, a healthy life of meditating on the Scriptures, taking the Sacraments, fasting…spending quality time with Jesus. The more we immerse ourselves in the things of God, the stronger our stamina becomes because our faith matures – it grows deep.
One of the other things that runners know is that they cannot run encumbered. The more weight you carry, the slower you will be. What are the things that keep us from running a good race in the life of faith? Sin and the weight of the things of this world. If we are living a life of sin, it will destroy our stamina because the sin becomes the center of our lives, not the God of redemption. The weight of the things of this world, no doubt, have an adverse affect on how we run our race because honestly, when we become consumed with the things of this world…it moves our focus from the One thing that is able to sustain us to the very end.
Another thing that does help runners is being encouraged and cheered on. I know that when I have been on long runs and I feel my tank is empty, that encouragement, those cheers, give me that little extra boost that carries me across the finish line. Paul reminds us that we, as we run this life of faith, are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, who are cheering us on! These are the saints who have already run the race and whose lives show us what we must do to finish this race. They are encouraging us because they want us to receive the crown of life! They, as Jesus, leave us a witness to follow so that we will know what it takes to finish this race of faith and enter into our eternal rest.
What helps us finish the race? The joy of what we know is before us. The things of this world will pass away. The things of this world have no power to give life. Sin, in fact, does the opposite…it robs us of our life. But we Christians know that we have an inheritance that is before us. We will one day be in the presence of the God who loves us with a passion. We will be in a place in which we will have joy beyond measure, a life no longer tainted by sin and death. We have a home that is being prepared for us in the heavenly realm – one in which we will never be away from the presence of our loving Savior. Beloved, we run the race faithfully here because we know what is ahead, and THAT should make us glad and give us the stamina. May the God of all creation keep us unto that day.