“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV
One of my cousins shared a comment on South African politics on his Facebook page the other day. One of his friends commented: “You should run for president.” My cousin replied: “I don’t run.” I’m still laughing! It is the funniest comment I have read in a while. The inability and unwillingness to run, “runs” in the family. I do not come from a very sporty or athletic genepool. In fact, if you ever see me running, you should run too. There’s probably something scary behind me!
Because of my lack of enthusiasm for this analogy, I didn’t expect to find much in it. But ironically, it has given me some much needed wisdom when I needed it most. And that is exactly why I am back here. Because I am in a season where I need to get my running shoes back on. Only the proverbial ones, though. For now, anyway!
Over the next few days, I’m going to park on this passage. There are some powerful gems of wisdom I want to unearth (again), polish and put back in their proper heart-place. Today however, I want to start by writing an overview of the keys I found in this passage, when the Holy Spirit first highlighted it to me, a few years ago.
When you are focused on specific goals, it is very easy to believe the lie that you are the only one on the planet that is challenged by this issue you are trying to overcome or work towards. I have experienced this at different times and in many different situations. A goal I’m working on presently, is writing a book.
I have never written a book before, but I believe it is what God has commissioned me to do. I don’t understand all the details of his plan, but I know I don’t have to, I just need to obey him. For a long time I have tried to work on this goal on my own, and I reached a point where it has just become too hard to believe in it.
In November last year, I joined a community of writers (check out http://www.unlockingyourbook.com if you would like to learn more), and it has radically changed the process of writing for me. I am surrounded by people who share the same fears, the same struggles, the same doubts. And the great thing is, we are all learning to overcome those obstacles and move toward our goal. The biggest comfort is that I am not alone.
Your challenge may not be writing a book, your goal may be entirely different, but can I encourage you to find a community of people who can support you in reaching your goal? There are two things to look for in finding your tribe: Love and Accountability. Your tribe should support you, encourage you and believe in you, of course! But most of all, if they keep you accountable to keep going towards the goal, you will be unstoppable.
Lay aside every weight
Imagine trying to run a race dressed in your best suit, or high heels. Maybe even trying to carry your laptop bag, the baby bag, some grocery bags, maybe even a body bag? Yes, imagine trying to run a race, dragging a heavy, dead weight around. You wouldn’t get very far any time soon, would you?
The truth is, there are many unnecessary things we carry around in our hearts. Trying to fulfil the expectations of others, for example. Or trying to drag along all the issues from the past, your old self, along. You can’t run, unless you let go of that dead weight. You are not that person anymore. You were created to run light and free into the destiny that God has marked our for you.
It may take time to lay down every weight. You may need to take some time to get that broken foot looked at, or the scrapes on your knee tended to. We all get hurt and injured along the way, but if we don’t deal with the issues that damaged our hearts, our race will be impacted in a negative way. You can run much faster, when you’re healed and whole.
Let us run with endurance
Endurance is not a sexy word. Nobody buys a gym contract thinking about the daily commitment they have to make to get fit. All they see is that picture on the front of the door with that girl in the slinky bikini. We want that, and we want that now! So we usually give up a few weeks into the new year, because the results aren’t there yet.
I’m learning this with writing too. It’s astounding to see what can be accomplished with a daily commitment to sit down and write. No one has written a book in a day (not that I know of at least). It takes discipline and strict time management skills, to get the job done. One chapter at a time. Actually, one paragraph, most days.
This is also true for our spiritual life. We can’t always see the fruit of a consistent prayer life, immediately. But if we persevere, we will see promises fulfilled. For a long time, I did not grasp the need for discipline in my spiritual growth, so when I didn’t see my prayers answered immediately, I got discouraged. Foolishly, I even questioned God’s heart towards me.
Discipline is often equated to religious activity, so we scribble the word Grace over it with a red biro. We don’t need that kind of negativity in our lives, do we?
The truth is, we do need discipline! We need it more than the air we breathe. We are not made righteous by it (that is where the religious aspect comes in), but we grow by it. We are shaped by it. We are made fit to run the race that we were created for. Our total being needs the Word and the Spirit like our bodies need a healthy diet and exercise.
More than just reading the Bible and praying, we need intimacy. It is in the moments where we enter his presence that we are empowered to take the baggage that we’ve been dragging along, and place it before the feet of the One who can set us free from it. This is not just a once in a lifetime moment. Living free takes intentionality and discipline.
The race set before us
Your goal is important. As I have typed that, I winced, because to be honest, I am still trying to believe that statement! There are many times when I question, can God really do anything through me? I can list a hundred more reasons why he couldn’t use me than why he could. But there is a reason. One reason that obliterates all the “could nots” – you, fulfilling (or not fulfilling the destiny that God designed for you, will have an impact on the Kingdom!
There is someone who needs to be reached by the Father. What if their breakthrough is coming through our obedience?
Isn’t that enough? I don’t have to blaze a trail, or forge a way to my future. I simply have to trust his plan and surrender mine. I just have to follow him. He has dreams he wants to accomplish. He created me according to the dream he had for my life. He placed me in this time and place, knowing that this is where I would discover what he has planned for me.
God isn’t looking for ability, he simply needs our availability. It’s not about me. It’s not about what I can do in my own strength, but what he wants to do through me. It’s about what he wants to do when I surrender my heart, my talents, my dreams to him.
As I sit down to write, I lean my head on his chest. I listen for the message that is on his heart, and I simply steward it. In the unique way that he designed me to.
Looking unto Jesus
When my son run his first race in primary school, he looked so cute in his little PE kit and black pumps. Knowing the implications of the genetic genepool he came from, I held my breath, as the reception class were lined up at the starting line. Ready, steady, go! The little ones charged full steam ahead towards the finishing line. But my son kept looking at everyone around him, comparing his performance, whilst he ran!
He came in second to last. “At least I didn’t come last,” he said, and I giggled as I remembered saying the exact same thing to my dad, when I had to run a race at school. As long as we’re not the slowest, we’re still winning, aren’t we? It’s a little bit funny, but in truth, we were not created to run that way. When we try to just be a little bit better than the people around us, we’re not really running our race the way that we were created to run.
When we’re constantly looking at our odds, at our competition, at ourselves, we are not going to run the race well. We have to focus. We have to keep looking at the goal: Jesus. He is the one we are running for. I want him to be proud of me, when I get to the finish line. I want to run with my eyes fixed on him. After all, he ran his race for me!
There are many people who have written books more eloquently than me. Books on the same topic of identity in Christ. But no one has my take on it. Every story is unique. Honestly, if I start to look around me at all the better authors and greater stories than mine, I will not get to finish this race! I have to focus on my own journey with the Lord.
Today, can I encourage you to see Jesus standing at that finishing line of whatever the race that you are running? See him cheering you on! You are not alone. You are surrounded by champions. Ones that have run their races well. Ones that are currently running towards Jesus too. They are cheering because they already know you are going to win!
Make the choice to train yourself in intimacy with the Author of your faith. If you’re going to be consistent in anything, let it be in spending time with him. Allow him to take away the heavy loads of false expectations and painful experiences. Knowing that when you do, you will be able to run light and free towards your destiny.
Don’t get distracted by the odds. Or the competition. Just focus on the finishing line. Where your greatest reward is waiting to embrace you. Forget about the trip ups and tumbles of the past. You have a new race to run!
Is it time to put your running shoes back on?
Today, I see the Father sitting in the stadium. I see the crowd of witnesses; witnesses to his faithfulness, his goodness, his power and grace. I hear them cheering for me! My Father is cheering the loudest. And Jesus, standing at the finishing line saying: “Beloved! I have run for you. Now run for me! You have what it takes to finish strong. Let go of everything that is holding you back. You are a champion! You were created for this. Just keep going! One foot in front of the other. I can’t wait to celebrate your victory. Run baby, run!” ❤