August 29th

Living for God, Running the Race

Excerpts from Hebrews 12 NIV 

1 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.  2 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. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. 4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son." 7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?

10 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 "Make level paths for your feet," so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. 14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17 Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears. 

25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, "Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens." 27 The words "once more" indicate the removing of what can be shaken--that is, created things--so that what cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our "God is a consuming fire." 

This passage uses the analogy of running a race to describe how we are to live for God.  Jesus died not only to bring us peace with the Father, but also that we would live for righteousness and do God’s will just as Jesus did when he lived on earth (1 Peter 4:1-2).  Living for God can be challenging, but the rewards include eternal life, treasures in heaven and the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). 

As we prepare to run and begin running the race, it will behoove us to plant ourselves in God’s written word in the Bible.  God’s word contains the promises that we’ll need to stand on in order to finish successfully.  The best endurance training includes a daily quiet time with God where we connect with him through prayer, worship and Bible study.  It is there where we’ll learn God’s character and become sensitive to the Holy Spirit.  We’ll also want to be plugged into a good church and/or Christian group that will provide opportunities for fellowship, prayer, teaching and encouragement.  Having such elements in our foundation will help prevent injury or disqualification during the more difficult parts of the race.   

As we start off, we’ll need to throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles (12:1).  Sin can wrap around our spiritual legs and make it difficult to run or even walk in a forward direction.  As we cast aside habitual sin and pursue holiness, our spiritual vision and sensitivity to God will improve.  Pursuing holiness will help us avoid dangerous obstacles in the race, such as falling short of God’s grace (15), roots of bitterness (15) and sexual immorality (16-17).  The author of Hebrews underscored the value of holiness when he wrote, “without holiness no one will see the Lord” (14). 

Jesus is to be our focal point as we run.  He was the first to finish the race successfully and he now beckons to us as we run.  He is the author and perfecter of our faith as we follow his example. Whenever we start to feel weary and discouraged in the battle against sin (3), we can remember the pain and agony Jesus endured for us on the cross.  He resisted sin to the point of shedding his own blood, and now offers to help us resist temptation.   

Living in a world hostile to God, we can expect hardship.  We are to endure hardship as discipline and remember that God disciplines those he loves and calls his sons.  Not all hardship is discipline, but if we seek to learn through every instance of it, we’ll maximize our spiritual growth.  If we allow God’s discipline to train us, we’ll receive a “harvest of righteousness and peace.”  Such training is necessary to get us into spiritual shape to finish the race and be fruitful in God’s kingdom along the way.   

Throughout the race we must heed the Holy Spirit.  As the Spirit of truth, he will guide us in all truth and remind us of Jesus’ words.  He will help us uncover hidden obstacles along the way and avoid potential landmines that could maim our spiritual life.   God’s path for the race is straight, and does not turn aside to sinful pursuits or shortcuts.  The temptations to deviate from the path can be more powerful in the middle or end of the race, when we’re getting tired.  The devil may try to persuade us to give up or take a shortcut to some pleasure through sin.  By standing on the promises of God’s word and relying on the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can stay on path and not get sidetracked into sin.  If you know something is wrong, don’t continue to do it. Be thankful that you have the Holy Spirit with you, and worship God acceptably with reverence and awe. 

Questions for further thought:

·        Are we running this race against other people, or against ourselves?

·        Why is it important to embrace the call of holiness? (1 Peter 1:13-16)

·        What sin are bitter roots linked to? (Matthew 6:14-15)

·        What might it mean to be disqualified from the race? (1 Corinthians 9:26-27; 2 Corinthians 13 5-7) 

Prayer:

“Lord Jesus, thank you for running the race and setting the perfect example for us.  Thank you for your Holy Spirit living in me, teaching me and guiding me in living for God.  Lord, I desire to live for you and bring every area of my life under your Lordship.  Please bring the areas of rebellion in my life to my attention and strengthen me to repent from them once and for all.  I pray for the mindset of a spiritual athlete who runs the race well and finishes well.  Please help me stay on the straight path of righteousness, never straying into shortcuts or dead-ends. I look forward to entering into eternal rest and peace with you at the finish line.  I praise you, Jesus, now and forever! Amen.”