Sunday, March 1, 2015

Running the race of life to win ...

The writer of the book of Hebrews in the Bible did a masterful job of wanting to motivate, encourage, and challenge his readers to run the race of life to win it!

Before making that challenge, he spends all of chapter 11 presenting to us the great "Hall of Faith," the men and women in the Bible who lived lives of great faith even though they may have been extraordinarily ordinary, or particularly sinful folks we wouldn't have initially thought would become heroes of faith.

Then the challenge begins with this in chapter 12 ...

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us," Hebrews 12:1.

The last part of that verse deserves our attention first. So many people think they get to design the race they'll be running in life, but look closely at that last sentence ...

"... And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us."

It is God who designs the race course, it's our role to run it! When we see the path God has laid out for us, many attempt to re-route themselves on a different, easier, preferable course than the one God has designed. All of us experience places along the course God has put in front of us that are easy and breathtakingly beautiful, but others parts of the race are less so and extremely difficult. Nonetheless, the challenge and encouragement is to endure through the race that God has set before us.

Forunately, the author of Hebrews provides us with the means of being able to win the race God has designed for each of us ...

"... let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up ..."

To make better sense of this great insight and point of wisdom provided to us, let's take a look at two different stories about a race of endurance ...

In 1845, the ill-fated Franklin Expedition sailed from England to find a passage across the Arctic Ocean.

The crew loaded their two sailing ships with a lot of things they didn't need: a 1,200 volume library, fine china, crystal goblets, and sterling silverware for each officer with his initials engraved on the handles. Amazingly, each ship took only a 12-day supply of coal for their auxiliary steam engines.

The ships became stuck in vast frozen plains of ice. After several months, Lord Franklin died. His men decided to try to trek to safety in small groups, but none of them survived.

One story about their attempt to survive is especially heart-breaking. Two officers pulled a large sled more than 65 miles across the treacherous ice. When rescuers found their bodies, they discovered that the sled was filled with table silver.

Those men contributed to their own demise by carrying what they didn't need.

The other story is that of the army of Alexander the Great as it was advancing on Persia. At one critical point, it looked like his army might be defeated. The soldiers had taken so much plunder from their previous campaigns that they had become weighted down and were losing their effectiveness in combat.

Alexander commanded that all the spoils be thrown into a heap and burned. The men complained bitterly but soon saw the wisdom for the order. Someone wrote, "It was as if wings had been given to them --- they walked lightly again."

God has designed a race for us to run, one which will require our endurance. To finish the race with a win, we need to heed those words of the writer of Hebrews, "... let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up ..."

The Apostle Paul provides for us an example of how he stripped away what was weighing him down ...

"I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him," Philippians 3:7-9a.

Is there anything in your life you need to strip away to victoriously run the race God has set before you?

Scotty

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