I was working on the sermon for church this past week, and Hebrews 12: 1-2 was part of the Scripture.
It made me think of the Olympics that have been on television the past few days, especially, the runners that run in all those track and field events — the races. It reads: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a large crowd of witnesses, we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily entangles us. And we must be determined to run the race with perseverance marked out for us. We must keep our eyes on Jesus, who leads us and makes our faith complete. He endured the shame of being nailed to a cross, because he knew that later on he would be glad he did. Now he is seated at the right side of God’s throne!”
I have read that verse many times before, but I never really gave it much thought until then, but it told me so much that I want to share it with you.
First, who are these witnesses that are all around us? They are the faithful people who have lived before us and been examples of what it means to be a good Christian. They were people from the Bible or our ancestors who loved God and showed us through their lives how to be faithful and loving during good times and bad. Many of them suffered for their faith, but they still served the Lord through it all. You can probably think of many such people from the Bible stories you have read or heard.
Remember Noah, Abraham, David, Paul, Matthew, Mark, Mary, Martha … just to name a few. Think of older Christians that you have known who also were good examples of how to love God and people. And our best example would be Jesus.
Then, the verses talk about the race. What race? We are all in the race of life, whether we want to run or not. We need to love God and believe in His Son (Jesus) as our Savior, even to enter the starting gate. Without God, Christ and the Holy Spirit, we have lost the race before we ever begin. We need to pray daily for faith, love, perseverance (patience) and strength to endure the daily things that happen to us every day — good or bad. God will help us with those things.
Next, it says we must get rid of anything sinful that might slow us down. Because we are human beings, we often let sin sneak into the picture and entangle us before we realize it if we are not careful. Try to do what is right and not be swayed into doing wrong by others or in certain situations. God will help you do this, too, if you ask Him.
Did you see the part about running the race “marked out for us?” Did you know that God has a special plan for each of us — one He picked out just for you and me? It may not be exactly what we would have chosen, but God knows what we need in order to learn the lessons He wants us to know. It’s like our own special earthly classroom. How much does He especially love each one of us to prepare and watch over our own individual plan? So no matter what happens, God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are there with us helping us as we learn our lessons.
And finally, we should remember how Jesus ran the race set before Him as the passage says. He was obedient to God’s will, even when it meant a shameful death on a Roman cross. The problems we face in this world serve to discipline us, teach us, and offer us opportunities to share God’s love and mercy with others. Let us pray to accept those things, good and bad, with grace and humility. Then we can finish our race with the gold medal that can never be removed for all eternity.
Let’s say our prayer. God, help us to remember to run life’s race with You as our coach. You will guide us as we maneuver each lap of the race if we listen to Your directions. Thank You for loving us enough to make our game plan and help us through it all. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Ann Moody is pastor of Wilkesville First Presbyterian Church.