Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Many of us are at present facing times of testing greater than we have ever experienced before, and we are aware of brothers and sisters in Christ for whom this difficult testing is far greater than anything we are ever likely to face.
The author of Hebrews is calling on us to make a positive decision to PERSEVERE in these circumstances, and not to give up. By ‘perseverance’ he is not talking about ‘stiff upper lip stoicism’; he is talking about pressing on, making every effort to do well in the ‘race’ in which we are to be OPTIMISTIC competitors. (I am really writing this to myself because of my innate default tendency towards pessimism!). And as one whose brain likes everything to be logical and reasonable, I am impressed by the many powerful reasons he gives me for really working on changing my default position.
Principally, there is nothing arbitrary or meaningless about the ‘race’ of life that I am involved in – it is a specific course that has been ‘marked out’ FOR ME by a loving, powerful, sovereign God. HE is in full control of every little detail of it.
Secondly, the One who was involved in the design and development of this course for me was none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, who has run it ahead of me with great ‘endurance’ and perseverance. The course for HIM involved all the shame and pain and injustice of a cruel cross. If this is so, what basis can I have for complaining about any relatively minor shame or pain or injustice I might have to put up with as one who wants to be identified as his follower? He endured because he had his eyes fixed firmly on the joy and blessing he would experience at the end of the race in his heavenly Kingdom. Why shouldn’t my eyes have the same intensity of fixation on HIM?
Thirdly, in the light of all this, why should I be allowing all the debilitating distractions of the cares and pleasures of THIS broken, fading world hinder me, trip me up, and slow down my efforts in the race?
Fourthly, I need to keep reminding myself that this is not just a ‘private’ race. My ‘race’ is on coast-to-coast television, and among the viewers are countless people who have completed their race successfully before me, and the hardships they have had to persevere against have just been spelt out for me in the previous chapter! Along these same lines, the Apostle Peter reminds me to “resist [the destructive efforts of the devil], standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (1 Peter 5:9). Let us resolve to persevere and run well, encouraging and supporting one another daily in the strength of the Lord and with our eyes fixed on HIM.