10 Minutes with God:
Friday, August 1st, 2014
I used to run cross-country. This will come as quite a surprise to many of you that know my complete and total aversion to physical activity of any kind these days. I signed up for the team my senior year of high school mainly because several of my friends were on the team and I had nothing better to do. This is a perfect example of negative peer pressure. I thought it sounded fun but seriously under-estimated the amount of running that was involved. Considering I spent most runs in the back of the pack, my grandpa used to say I spent all my time staring at elbows. He was very supportive of my running career.
If you have ever been to a cross-country race, you know that the finish line is typically marked with a large, bright banner that was hung as high as possible so that it would be visible to the runners. This was always a critical point in the race for me. Primarily because I was in a heated battle to avoid finishing last. When there are 100+ runners in a race, it looks really bad to finish last. Secondarily, however, the moment that my eyes could see the finish line I had hope. It was always at that moment that I knew I could make it. As soon as I could see the finish line, I ran with more purpose, commitment and determination (but unfortunately, the same speed).
As we conclude our time in 10 Minutes with God this week and the consideration of Nehemiah’s example of a purposeful and focused life, I want us to take a few moments to consider how we live this type of life in our own relationship with Jesus and in our own call to model the gospel.
Let’s take a look at Hebrews 2:1-2:
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.
Ironically, the author of Hebrews uses the example of running a race as a model for how we can/should live out our lives in Christ. These verses follow the list in Hebrews 11 of those who had gone before them and demonstrated a focused and purposeful faith. People like Enoch and Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Moses, Rahab, Samson, Gideon, David and others whose focus was fixed on God and that ultimately guided their actions and their choices. In light of this “great cloud of witnesses”, Hebrews essentially instructs us on how to run.
There are a couple of things that stand out to me in these verses. The first is the need to get rid of that which is slowing me down. Most of the week we have talked about distractions. The author of Hebrews calls it sin. I love that these verses are blunt. Sin in our lives is the equivalent to running a marathon while carrying a backpack full of rocks. It makes it really difficult to progress, to keep running. The solution is clear here: get rid of it. If we are to run with the sort of effectiveness and impact of those who have gone before us, we have be willing to identify sin in our lives, confess it as sin and receive forgiveness. Confessed sin is weightless and consequently we can run freely.
Lastly, and I think most critically, we are taught to look to Jesus. In the NIV translates this phrase by saying “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith”. In the immediate context of the book of Hebrews, at the conclusion of a marathon there would oftentimes be a public figure or a celebrity of some sort seated on an elevated throne, ready to greet the runners at the conclusion of the race. Drawing from that imagery, these verses remind us that the key to running is to understand what we are running towards, to see the finish line and not to take our eyes off it. Herein lies the essence of purposeful and focused living: we look to Jesus and we don’t remove our eyes from what awaits us at the finish line. 2 Corinthians 4:18 says it this way: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
Pastor Sterling Moore