It’s easy to get bogged down with things that we keep getting wrong. Whether it is those conversations we keep getting sucked in to at work, laughing along with those inappropriate jokes. It might be chickening out of speaking out against something you know to be wrong, or speaking up for something you know is right. It might be eating more than we should, spending too long on that website, or watching what we know we should not. It might be saying yes when we should say no, or… I could go on, as there are so many sins that easily beset us as we walk this road of faith.
So, how do we get past making the same mistakes, or the same sins that keeps tripping us up?
It has been often said that the Christian faith is a marathon, not a sprint. I believe this comes from the book of Hebrews, where we are encouraged to run this race with endurance (Hebrews 12:1). Now anyone who knows anything about athletics will agree that the races that require the most endurance are the long distance events, the longest of which is a marathon. We watch the runners with admiration as they persevere, mile upon mile, straining their bodies and stretching their limits.
If someone had never seen a long distance race before, or any kind of athletic event, they might wonder why these people, who are clearly under immense physical strain, don’t just stop running. That would cause their pain to cease with immediate effect. They are not being chased by anything. Why do they keep going?
We know that they keep going for the reward of completing the race and making it to the end. Depending on the calibre of the athlete, they might have the added motivation of wanting to finish first and gain a prize. But one thing is common to them all – they enter the race, both anticipating and enduring hardship, for the joy of completing the race.
This is an important point to make – the anticipation of difficulty. All runners, well, all good runners enter the race with the understanding that what they are about to undertake will be very hard. Therefore, when their muscles begin to ache and their breathing becomes laboured, they are not surprised; they expect these barriers and strive to overcome them in order to finish the event and win the prize.
A runner who starts a marathon and stops two miles in because they were finding it difficult is either naïve, ill-prepared or plain foolish.
So, if our Christian “walk” is also a marathon, should we not also anticipate, or dare I say, welcome hardship as part of the experience?
Now, please do not misunderstand me, there is much to be enjoyed, as the well-loved hymn says, “‘tis so sweet to trust in Jesus.” Yet, we must also be aware of and be prepared for a level of sustained perseverance if we, too, want to be able to confidently say, “I have fought the good fight, I have run the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7).
Now, this hardship comes in a variety of ways, it can be a chronic battle with ill health, a continued fight with sinful habits, a constant struggle with addiction, the continual pain of disappointment.
How we deal with these challenges determines how successfully we finish the race. The writer of Hebrews encourages us to fix our eyes on Jesus. Not on our disappointments, not on our failings, not on our pain or our exhaustion, but on Jesus. He is the finish line, He is the prize, He is our hope, He is the exceedingly great reward.
We take heart knowing that Jesus has gone ahead of us, to prepare a place for us and intercedes for us before the Father (John 14:3, Romans 8:34).
We take heart knowing that Jesus has promised to be with us every step of the way (Matthew 28:20).
We take heart knowing that at the end of the race, we will be with Jesus forever, and all the pains of the race will be over (Revelation 21:4).
We take heart knowing that He loves us with an everlasting love and that His thoughts towards us are good (Jeremiah 31:3, John 13:1, Psalm 139:17).
We take heart knowing that He is coming back for us (John 14:3, 1 Thessalonian 4:16, Revelation 22:12).
We take heart knowing that Jesus has been given the Name above every name, He is the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords and ultimately, He wins and triumphs over all (Philippians 2:9-11).
We must keep all of these at the forefront of our minds, we must immerse ourselves in these eternal truths that will endure beyond the fleeting distractions and sins. This race is not one that we do alone, for Jesus has also sent His Spirit to help us (John 14:16-18). As we devote ourselves to this, the Holy Spirit works in us, making us more like Jesus and better able to run the race as we should.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, You know that I am weak and constantly fall short and lose heart. Thank you for promising to never leave me nor forsake me. Help me to keep my eyes fixed on You and create in me a heart that desires You above everything else. Thank You for never giving up on me and for sending Your Holy Spirit, for without You, I can do nothing. I look forward to seeing You. Help me to do You proud and run well. In your precious and mighty Name, Amen.