Running The Christian Race
“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; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” Hebrews 12:1, 2.
Notice three things about the Christian race: 1. It is “set before us.” 2. It is “run with patience,” and 3. It is run “looking unto Jesus.”
Let us consider these three important features in the Christian race.
The Prescribed Course
Paul tells us the race is set before us. It is a prescribed course made evident by the Word of God. When young people do not read the Word of God for themselves and do not look to God to speak to them from His Word there are always problems in the life that cannot be solved. The young believer who enquires “Why can’t I do this?” or “What is wrong with that?” is always the person who is not reading the Word of God for himself and allowing the Word to speak to his own heart.
If you are going to run this race you have no choice as to the course. The course has been laid down for us in the Word of God, and either you run on the track or you are out of the race. I well know there are difficulties in the course. Have you ever seen the obstacle course for trainees at Ft. Riley? It is made up of barrells, logs, fences, barbed wire, ditches, mud and a river to cross. The men who can run through all that are deemed strong enough to go on in the army.
God has an obstacle course. The trouble with some softies is that instead of enduring as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, they have come to the first obstacle, and have sat down beside it and prayed about it; looked over it; have talked to others about it; but the obstacle is still there and so is the believer.
The way to get across an obstacle course is by starting out and letting nothing stop you. John Bunyan has a character in Pilgrims Progress who was on his way to the Celestial City. This remarkable fellow was named Mr. Ready-to-Halt and he struck up a conversation with Mr. Greatheart who asked him how he progressed toward the Celestial City. The reply of Mr. Ready-to-Halt shows the depth of apprehension of Mr. Bunyan as to the pilgrimage: he has Ready-to-Halt reply: “When I can, I walk; when I can’t walk, I crawl; but I do not stop from walking or crawling toward the Celestial City.” That’s it. He was in the race for sure and that is the kind who always win. That is the determination which shows that Christ means something to the believer. When he can’t walk he crawls. He does not stop in despair at the obstacles. He does not consider his own lameness; he goes on. There was an African Christian who wrote a poem about the Christian life and the first of the twelve-stanza poem was:
Go on, go on, go on, go on,
Go on, go on, go on,
Go on, go on, go on, go on,
Go on, go on, go on.
The other eleven verses were the same as the first! That man may not have been a poet but he had grasped one of the basic principles of Christianity. Go on! Keep going on for God.
The second thing we learn about this race is how it is to be run. It must be run with patience. We all need the grace of patience. You cannot run this race otherwise. If the race is not run with patience, it is not counted as part of the race. When we are unhappy with God or His people, we are not running the race set before us. When people try to deter you or when they provoke or injure you, a good opportunity to bless them has presented itself.
When Peter walked, his very shadow fell on some and they were blessed and helped. Peter cast a shadow which shows that he was walking in the light. No one casts shadows unless walking where the light shines. I suppose the thing we are the least conscious of is the shadow we cast. A man running a race would not be occupied with his shadow. We can be a blessing even in little inconsequential things if we are going along in the light of God’s Holy Word.
The Race Setter
The only way to run with patience is found in the next verse: “Looking unto Jesus.” There is no other way to run the race. Consider His obstacle course. Did He turn aside to some easier path? No, He went on to do the will of the Father. He said “Without Me ye can do nothing.” With Him constantly guiding and supporting, this race can be won. Don’t look at the spectators. Don’t look at other runners. Look unto Jesus.