Running

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, 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. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” (Hebrews 12:1-3, ESV)

One of my favorite movies is Forrest Gump, starring Tom Hanks. There is a scene where Forrest decides to go for a run for no particular reason. He runs across America several times and even gains followers who ran with him. At one point, Forrest comments that people believed that his running somehow gave them hope. Forrest ran for three years, two months, 14 days, and 16 hours, then suddenly stopped and declared he was tired and went home. That is a long time to run for no reason.

The author of Hebrews writes to Jewish Christians who were being persecuted and facing harsh opposition because of their faith. Growing weary and discouraged, some believers turned away from faith in Jesus Christ to return to their previous beliefs and way of life. The writer cautions and encourages these believers while urging them to persevere in their faith and not abandon Christianity.

I cannot speak for all people, but I do not believe that I am alone in saying that I have experienced varying degrees of the exhilarating adrenaline rush of a long run or walk and feeling tired and discouraged during my life. In Hebrews 12:1-3, the writer uses the metaphor of a runner in a race to describe the Christian life. He provides instructions for running with endurance. First,  remember the “cloud of witnesses” in Hebrews 11, who are examples of steadfast faith and perseverance. In addition, we have personal examples of people alive and dead who modeled this type of faith to encourage us.

Second, running with endurance requires putting aside anything that hinders us from doing the will of God and sin that slows us down and trips us up. The Christian life is a long-distance race. It is a marathon, not a sprint. We must run the course that God has marked out for us in service through the opposition, pain, and suffering we may experience along the journey. We must run with patience and persistence.

Third, running with endurance requires keeping our focus fixed on Jesus. He is not only the founder of our faith; He perfected it. Jesus is our supreme example of faithfulness to God. In the face of humiliation and suffering, He endured the shame of the cross to finish the work of redemption. Jesus was able to look past the agony of what he suffered on the cross and see the joy beyond it. Through His faithful obedience, Jesus claimed His reward and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Look to Jesus as our most excellent example for direction, encouragement, and hope to keep running when we feel weary. Through Jesus, we can experience joy in the journey towards our future reward.

The movie Forrest Gump was released almost 27 years ago, and themes from the film still resonate with me today. His mother taught him to embrace his disability and to believe that he could achieve great things in life. She taught him that you have to do the best with what God entrusts to us. One of his abilities was running. After Forrest Gump’s three-year run, he shared one of his famous “my mama always said” quotes. “My Mama always said you’ve got to put the past behind you before you can move on.”

In Philippians 3:13-14 (NLT), the Apostle Paul states it this way, ” No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”

What hinders you from doing the best with what God gave you and running the course marked out for you? Fix your eyes on Jesus and keep running, brothers, and sisters. Run!