The Long Race

Hebrews 12:1 “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,”

Endurance races were never a forte of mine. I have never fully understood the draw of running hour after hour with only your pain as a constant reminder of the crazy distance your attempting to complete. I enjoyed doing short sprints, the 100 meter race is over in only seconds and the recovery is just as short. Sometimes I think that it would be so nice if this life were just a sprint, only a short distance and we get to enjoy Heaven in the presence of the Lord.

There is an interesting perspective when it comes to the length of time we must endure. Biblically, scriptures like the one I included from Hebrews indicates we are running an endurance race, while other scripture seems to allude to the brevity of life. does the Bible contradict itself or is there more meaning within the context of this truth?

Ecclesiastes 9:11 “I returned and saw under the sun that— The race is not to the swift, Nor the battle to the strong, Nor bread to the wise, Nor riches to men of understanding, Nor favor to men of skill; But time and chance happen to them all.”

According to Solomon, the race of life is not a race that goes to the sprinter but everything takes place in its time and we shouldn’t be too concerned with our ability. Like most comparisons, they break down but the idea of what it takes to complete this life successfully as a follower of Christ is the mindset of endurance. If we only look for a quick victory while only resting on our laurels, we will find ourselves reminiscing about times past, only to discover the battle continues to be waged.

I know people who have had a sincere belief in Jesus and witnessed victories in their lives. Those victories may date back 10, 20, or even 40 years and since their occurrence, they’ve either grown tired, become entrapped by an ideology of the past or find themselves griping about the the present day circumstances. Political agendas may dominate the thinking, or they relegate themselves to spending time only with family and close friends, who share their political views. These groups tend to feed off each other, then when the topic grows repetitive, they look for another article that sensationalizes our culture and paints a picture that looks conspiratory.

If there is one thing I have learned in watching the enemy work is he likes to entrap people into patterns that can be difficult to break out of. For instance, people who are homeless get caught up in a cycle of sleep deprivation, street drama, fear, and usually some form of substance abuse. For anyone that thinks they can avoid these pitfalls when living on the streets, the illusion turns into a nightmare that creeps slowly in, overtaking them before they know it. With all of these factors comes a schizophrenic response to demonic oppression, a threat that becomes more plausible when their ability to defend against such attacks is diminished by their lifestyles.

Many of the men and women who enter into rehab programs are wrestling with the lies and illusions that are perpetuated by these demonic attacks. The voices they heard before continue until they begin to heal and give their hearts to Jesus.

The entrapment of people into patterns of control is a method the enemy uses to paralyze God’s people and render them ineffective in the world and hinders their ability to draw near to God. The position we place ourselves in determines our measure of success.

We must Endure

The idea of endurance doesn’t indicate a specific length of time, it only indicates the need to persist until the end. However long it takes to reach the end is a mystery, and since we don’t know when we will reach it, it seems long.

The process of endurance is determined in how we practice it.

  • Enduring for Others

2 Timothy 2:10 “For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.”

Paul encouraged Timothy in that the process of endurance was meant for those of the household of faith. The faith of others is strengthened by your ability to persist in your work for Christ. By loving them without fail, you give others a perspective of God’s enduring love that never changes. Many people have known those who have not been consistent in their life. A person may express love but it only lasts for the length of time it remains favorable to the one giving it. The hypocrisy demonstrated becomes a pattern of false hope that discourages someone from being able to trust others again. When we show love to others, the expectation is for that love to continue until we can’t love them anymore. Our role as a church family is lifting others up in the faith so they might go forth in strength and victory.

  • Enduring Chastening

Hebrews 12:7 “f you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?

There are times when God has to rebuke us for how we act. This rebuke may take the form of hardship, it may look like a restraining from moving forward, or it may simply be God moderating our progress by limiting our influences. However God chooses to chasten, He does it because He loves us and His desire is to bring us back into an alignment of His purpose and will.

  • Enduring Sinners

Hebrews 12:3 “For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.”

When we live for Christ in this world, the world will hate you. The more you exemplify the attributes of Christ, the less of the world you become, and the world recognizes this. You may be shunned, beaten, outcast, or any number of hateful approaches, although it isn’t pleasant, it is absolutely necessary. You can’t live like Christ and the world simultaneously, the two lifestyles are in direct contrast to one another. For those who attempt such a feet of towing the line, the Lord said you will be cast out, you are not of Him.

Revelation 3:16 “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.”

Call to Holiness

In the midst of a dark and perverse world, the call to be separate is issued.

Hebrews 12:14-17 “Pursue peace with everyone, as well as holiness, without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God, and that no root of bitterness springs up to cause trouble and defile many. See to it that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected. He could find no ground for repentance, though he sought the blessing with tears.”

We can obstruct others ability to see Christ in us if can’t get along with others. Bitterness is like having a sense of being wronged without resolve. It spreads like a cancer and infects many with it’s vile hatred.

It’s so easy to pick apart every part of our lives that doesn’t match up with God’s standard of Holiness, it can seem defeating. If we stay focused on the goal, it becomes easier to keep our eyes on the horizon and less on the trouble directly in front of us. The further out we consider where we are going, the more stable we remain moving forward.

Just remember, the road may seem long but the time will pass very quickly. Stay focused on the path the Lord has set you on, and what may sound like a marathon will actually just be a moment…then it will be over. With this in mind, stay true to God’s lead and let Him direct your paths each day.

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