Updated: Jan 31
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. Hebrews 12:1+
The Bible is famous for its metaphors, analogies, and parables to help readers understand deeper concepts and principles. Most of the time, it is easier to understand spiritual things by comparing them to physical things or experiences that we are familiar with in our day-to-day lives. Hebrews 12 makes one of the most compelling analogies in all of the New Testament. It turns life into a race and the Christian into an athlete running toward the finish line.
Don’t worry if the term athlete gives you shivers and terrible flashbacks to junior high gym class. God doesn’t expect all Christians to be athletic. There is no proverbial Christian locker room or gym teacher with a whistle waiting for you. The Bible compares Christians to runners in a race in order to teach Christians some simple yet powerful truths about life. After accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, you enter into the Christian race, ready or not. The starting line is the same for everyone, Salvation. Becoming a follower of Jesus enters you into the race known as the Christian life. Christ set a race before each and every one of us. The good news is that He already ran the Christian race and is the author and finisher of our faith. That is the same faith it is going to take to run successfully in this race.
Typically, when we think of running a race, we picture everyone on the same starting line and a ribbon-breaking finish line. However, the Christian race is not like a typical race. The path in front of you is different from the path in front of your best friend. Christians don’t start the race at the same age or under the weight of the same baggage. One runner may choose to start running the race at age 6 and another at age 36. Crossing the starting line is choosing to follow Christ, and the finish line is found at the gates of heaven. Once you start, there is no exiting, only detours or sidelines. Everything between the start and the finish line is going to be different for each Christian. Fearfully and wonderfully created we are uniquely designed for our own race.
Go back and take a good look at Hebrews 12:1. It specifically says, “the race that is set before us.”
Your race is not the same as the person sitting next to you in church. Every new Christian is given a Spiritual gift to help them along their own race. All of the Spiritual gifts work together in the church body, but they are not the same, so it makes no sense to compare your jobs or race to anyone else.
In fact, God specifically calls it is not wise to compare ourselves to each other in
2 Cor 10:12.
“… but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.”
It may be extremely tempting to covet someone else’s race or Spiritual gifts. Often we can be tempted to think that someone else’s race is easier or better than ours. Maybe their track looks smooth, and yours took you through a swamp path. Your shoes are still caked with swamp mud and muck, and now with every step you take, there is squishing water splashing everywhere. Many Christians will leave their racecourse and try to follow someone else’s path because it looks easier or affords them more chances to run in front of crowds and get cheered on to “victory.” Trying to run a race God didn’t put you on only ends in regret.
One of the most famous cheating scandals of the Olympics happened in 1984 at the Los Angeles Summer Olympics. Madeline de Jesus from Puerto Rico hurt herself in the long jump so her twin sister, Margaret de Jesus took Madeline’s place in the 4x400 meter relay. Madeline was not qualified to take Margarets’ place. When their plot was discovered they pulled and disqualified the whole team because no one can run someone else's race for them. Deception and lies will never see you crowned according to the Bible in 2 Timothy 2:5.
Every Christian has their own event, their own race, and their own lane to run. Unlike the track and field events you see during the Olympics, the Christian race is not a smooth track with lines clearly outlined to make sure you don’t enter into someone else’s lane or get off course. One of the fastest ways Christians get lost on a detour or sidelined happens when they try to run someone else’s course. Don’t get yourself disqualified, or your testimony ruined. Christians, don’t try to grab a race position God didn’t give you. Don’t deceive yourself or others and try to take someone else’s place in the race like Margaret de Jesus in the Olympics.
Paul wrote to Timothy, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day..”
Another important thing to remember within the analogy of the Christian race and life is that just like there are multiple types of races with different lengths there are different lengths for a Christian’s race. A young person may sprint through their life’s race covering a great distance in a short amount of time when it ends abruptly, or an adult may have barely begun to run, and the finish line came around a corner unexpectedly. Many men and women ran marathons with their Christian race spending a lifetime serving the Lord, and then there are some who started late but passed on the baton of a Christian legacy to their children’s children who took up the mission and joined the race for themselves. There is no guarantee of the length of anyone’s race.
There is also no guarantee that you will finish your race having “kept the faith” as Paul said. There are men and women who used to serve the Lord with a pure heart in their younger years but turned away from God. Paul asked the questions in Galatians, “Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?”
Christians are not immune to sin, and all too often a sin of immorality or illegal action disqualifies them from the race God intended for their life. Sin doesn’t change the destination, but it can alter the runner’s course.
This year we are going to focus on what it takes to Run Right. If we are all runners in this life, it bears reason to reflect on what the Bible says about the race. Why is it compared to a race? What is the purpose? Where are we running? What are the rules of this race? What is it going to take to finish well like Paul?
Join BC Missions in 2023 and learn more about how to please the Lord by “Running Right.”