How have you been finding lockdown? As a homebody, I’ve enjoyed working from home. I marvel at those who’ve taken the time to go for walks and consistently post workout videos and running stats. That’s simply not me. My room and I have seen more of each other than ever before… in fact, my bed and I are practically inseparable. Yes, I’m that person that works from her bed and occasionally takes the opportunity to nap on her lunch break. The importance of physical endurance notwithstanding, spiritual endurance is something that is vital for everyone.
“let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:1b-2a)
Hebrews 12 follows what could be dubbed as the faith ‘hall of fame’ in the preceding chapter; it’s hard not to be inspired by the journeys of those before us and how they embraced the much quoted Hebrews 11:1. I’ve truncated today’s key text because it appears later on from a different version. However, it’s easy to see the connection between the two chapters: just as they ran with endurance, so must you. If Hebrews 11 teaches us anything, it’s that a life of faith is fraught with challenges but it’s extremely worth it.
Without Christ, endurance is impossible.
The author of Hebrews is unknown, but by stipulating that we run with ‘endurance’ they’re reminding us that we’re in this for the long haul. As much as you might prefer a short race (of faith), you have to accept that you’re in a marathon rather than a sprint. Your endurance is entirely dependent on how well you do verse 12 (Looking Attentively explores this topic in more depth). If ever you feel like looking away from Jesus (even temporarily) isn’t an issue, please remind yourself of Peter’s experience in Matthew 14:28-31.
Enduring faith is the common denominator in the lives of those mentioned in Hebrews 11; however, the experiences that gave rise to that faith differ. The encouraging thing about this observation is that faith in God can see you through any and every situation. My walk has had so many highs and lows and at times these undulations have made me question whether it’s even worth persevering. I’m not sure what your spiritual journey has been like so far nor what it’ll be like in the future, but please don’t give up.
Endurance refers to the length of your overall race, but also the individual experiences within that race.
A marathon is 26.2 miles in total and it may be that as you run your spiritual marathon every stretch seems difficult. There are likely to be experiences which make you question your faith and others that make you resent it. For example, I’m sure Abraham wasn’t thrilled to be asked to sacrifice Isaac, and Moses questioned God’s judgement in choosing him of all people to be a leader (see Insecurities). Nevertheless, both were obedient, not necessarily because it made sense, but because they had faith in the God who had instructed them. As you face your struggles I’m sure you’ll wonder if your faith can endure, but I implore you to look to Christ who will show you how your faith can endure.
I love how the Message Bible expresses this week’s key text. The points in this section will be based on this translation.
“Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honour, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” (Hebrews 12:1-3, MSG)
- Sin is a hindrance to your endurance. Be honest about what is holding you back from running a successful race.
- Take some time to study the aspects of Jesus’ life that you think strengthened His faith. If He did it, so can you!
- Ask yourself what you love more than God.* Be mindful that whatever that thing is will prevent you from staying strong when the going gets tough.
*this doesn’t have to be a person or thing. In fact, it could even be that you love a God that says ‘yes’ to every prayer request more than a God who you feel is disappointing you by saying ‘no’ or encouraging you to wait.
For those of you that are used to running, I’m sure beating your personal best is a strong motivator. As you run your spiritual race, I pray that the desire to be more like Christ will be the thing that motivates you. Times will be difficult. That’s a given. However, He who runs beside you can testify that it is indeed possible to finish… as long as you focus on Him.