Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "Cleanse Me"1 (Lyrics)
Hebrews 12:1-2a – 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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. (NIV 2011)
Recently, some of my family participated in a run to raise funds for breast cancer research. This type of run is not to prove who is fastest. Some take part in wheelchairs, some walk supported by another. The prize is that each person knows that she's done her best. She honours a loved one, running with that person's name pinned on her chest. The physical exercise is beneficial, of course. There is a sense of accomplishment: the runner is committed to the event, spends time training, and afterwards has completed her task.
Each runner is encouraged along the way. There are markers, and officials and volunteers who point to the right direction. No matter how long it takes, spectators wait for the last ones to finish, cheering them across the finish line just as enthusiastically as the first ones. They persevered; they ran well.
In order to participate, entrants must raise money for the cause by collecting pledges. A pledge is a promise, or covenant, between two people. The one who pledges an amount does so with the expectation that the participant will complete the run.
The apostle Paul likens a Christian's life to a race. When we choose to live under God's authority, we make a covenant with God. We promise to follow Jesus, the pioneer ahead of us. In return, He will reward us with everlasting life. There are obstacles, tests, and persecution. We stumble or grow weary. We become sidetracked. We might drop out. Sometimes, we can be deceived into thinking that we're still in the race while at the same time serving another god — our self — and heading in the wrong direction. Fixing our eyes on Jesus means looking away from everything else.
Acts 20:24b – My only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me. (NIV 2011)
1 Corinthians 9:25-26a – Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly. (NIV 2011)
God doesn't expect us to run the race on our own. We have a Helper, the Holy Spirit, who guides us. We have God's Word to strengthen us. We are supported and encouraged by other godly persons, but we must each do our part. We are responsible for our own actions. If you're faced with difficulty today, don't give up! Lean on Jesus. Finish the course. Run well! The prize is life everlasting.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us to forget what is behind, to strain ahead like Paul, and to press on towards the goal to win the prize for which You call us heavenward. May we then approach Your throne of grace with confidence, and receive a crown of righteousness. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.