Hands up if you spent a lot of time watching the Olympics this summer. Okay, hands up of those who will watch the Paralympics as well! (My rant is always the lack of air-time given to these latter games -- as if disabled athletes are less important. They just bring in less money, I guess.)
Over the four Sundays of August I have taught on Hebrews 12:1-3 which says, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted." (English Standard Version)
The four points (one each week) were as follows: First of all we need to "Remember the Witnesses" who surround us and motivate us to run. This could be those in our present day such as Billy Graham, Amy Carmichael, Mother Theresa, or Tony Campolo. Or, it could be heroes from the past such as Martin Luther King Jr., Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Eric Liddell, or Augustine. Hebrews 11 mentions two dozen indiviuals and groups from the Old Testament that are noteworthy examples of faithfulness. These disciples ought to grip our own lives to see the possibilities of serving God.
Second, we are to "Remove any Hindrances" which hold us back. This could be sinful aspects of our life which quench the Spirit, or it could be lifestyle choices which squeeze out God from our lives. As any high-level athlete needs to be careful about diet, routines and disciplines, so too the follower of Jesus. Are you feeding yourself from the Bible? Are you listening to God's direction and following it? Are you admitting your weak areas so that they can be changed with God's help?
Third, we must "Run with Perseverance" the race marked out for us. In order to run effectively we must have the desire to run, alter our lifestyle to make it possible, and understand the purpose of why we run. There is a general race for the believer, which includes loving God and others, serving those around us as though we were service Christ, and sacrificing our own lives and agenda for the well-being of others. There is also a person race which connects with who you are and the story you are living in this world.
Fourth, we we need to "Remain Christ-Focused" if we are to run as champions. Jesus ran his race because he knew what lay ahead for God's people -- forgiveness, reconciliation, healing, justice, freedom... He was full of joy in seeing the glory of God revealed, even at great personal cost. Lives are changed when the Spirit gets hold of them. Those who are dead are made alive in Christ when they trust in him. And when we live out our lives in the power of the Spirit, we bear much fruit, show ourselves to be Jesus' disciples, and bring glory to the Father. What amazing reasons to run, and run with perseverance!
What is God's race marked out for you? As a church we have agreed to live like Jesus, build our community, and share our story with others. The one who called us to this race is faithful and he will enable us to do it. Get out there and Run!