There are many illustrations used in the Bible to describe our lives as Christians. We are warriors in His army (Eph. 6) and harvesters in His vineyard (Matt. 20). We are boxers who do not simply throw blows into the air against an imaginary foe (1 Cor. 9:26). One illustration used repeatedly is that we are competitors in a great race.
This figure is used in the book of Hebrews. After describing those heroes of faith throughout chapter eleven whose lives were all lived by faith, the Lord then turned His attention to the Hebrew Christians. That this chapter is directly tied to the men of faith is evidenced by the first word in chapter twelve. “Therefore, we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”
How do we maintain our strength and stamina in this race? The answer is found in the next verse. “Looking unto Jesus…who for the joy set before Him endured...” He never let up. He ended the race by saying, “It is finished.” He is our model and our example of endurance as we are faithful until death.
Yet, we struggle in this race. When we first read the words of Isaiah, we may not realize just how difficult the race can be. “Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isa. 40:31). We may overlook the fact that even this verse speaks of renewing strength and forget the energy expended by eagles as they soar above us.
Look further into this passage to see the importance of endurance in our race. The trials of this race are part of how God uses adversity to chasten and mold us (vs. 3-11). We are told to not despise these difficult times for afterwards it “yields the fruit of righteousness” (v. 11). As we run the race, we need to keep our eyes on Jesus and finish the race at whatever the cost.
The Lord then urges us to realize that we owe a debt to help others in the race. “Strengthen the hands that hang down, and the feeble knees” (v. 12). We need others to help us endure. They need us. When we see others struggling, we need to help them in their run.
Finally, He talks about showing others how to run the race by the way we live. The Lord says, “Make straight paths for your feet” (v. 12). The Greek literally says, “make your wheel tracks straight.” Remember that others are following you in the race, so leave distinct ruts and tracks clearly defined so they can follow in your steps.
God help us all to “finish the race” (2 Tim. 4:7).