I love the picture at the start of this passage. Imagine you are an athlete in a stadium. The stadium is full of ‘a great cloud of witnesses’ – those heroes of faith who have already run their race well, cheering us (athletes) on. Now, to run the race well, what do you need? Well you need to wear the right clothes – you are not going to be able to run the race well if you are wearing a big heavy old-fashioned diving suit. You will be held back! In those times the athletes used to run naked, so there was literally nothing holding them back! The clothes represent sin – things that pull us away from God – things that want to hold us back, trip us up and pull us off the track completely. Only when we have repented can we then ‘run with endurance the race God has set before us’ (v.1b). Just as an athlete can’t run well in a diving suit, so too we can’t run this race well if we have not dealt with sin in our lives.
How do we run this race well? How do we live the life God has given us well? ‘We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith’ (v.2a). Don’t let situations and circumstances trip you up – fix your eyes on Jesus through everything – the good and difficult times. It honestly makes such a difference.
I went through a really difficult situation this year which caused me lots of worry and anxiety, but just before the most difficult part, I felt God say to me ‘Don’t look at the situation/circumstances, look at me’. So I did and I had peace through the whole thing. Was it easy? No, but fixing my eyes on God instead of the situation really helped me through. I wasn’t full of ‘whys and what ifs’ as I usually would be. It helped me just to trust God and know that he was there helping me through. When things are difficult and it’s hard to run, fixing our eyes on Jesus helps us through.
In 1992 Derek Redmond was expected to win a gold medal in the 400m event. But part way through his semi-final he fell over and couldn’t run. So his dad jumped out of the crowd, picked him up and helped him to the finish line. He finished the race. This is a great picture of what God does for us. When we fix our eyes on him, and look to him for help, then he will help us to finish the race.
When we are focused on God, then we are ready to receive from him. Sometimes this will take discipline, but it is always for our own good – Proverbs 3:11-12 – ‘My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline, and don’t be upset when he corrects you. For the Lord corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.’
When we receive and act on God’s discipline it helps us to move forward and grow spiritually. It removes things that are holding us back in running the race. It’s not easy, but so worth it. Remember God is the ultimate loving Father and so he only wants the best for you. He also knows what is best for you better than you do! It’s so important to listen and act on what he says.
Fix your eyes on Jesus today, don’t let anything distract you or hold you back, and see the difference that it makes!