Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1)
Today's sermon was really powerful. Thomas Nelson spoke on the very familiar passage from Hebrews, but his application was incredibly relevant to me, especially since I'm trying to figure out what my next step is for life. Master's Degree? Maybe. More photography? Hopefully. Teaching and tutoring? For the foreseeable future. Art? Not looking likely.
In the midst of considering my options, Thomas reminded me that my first priority is Jesus. First, foremost, and forever. When he talked about "everything that hinders" he commented that our materialistic culture (especially in wealthy places like East Cobb) can be a tremendous hindrance to our passion for Christ. While "stuff" doesn't mean much to me, accomplishment does. Are the things I'm pursuing actually hindering my effectiveness in my testimony? Are my motives based on following the race marked out for me or are they really attempts to "make something of myself?"
Thomas also pointed out some of the subtleties of the words used in the passage. The witnesses are all those martyrs of the faith and those who died faithful. The image of so many people watching and encouraging as a cloud is an overwhelming idea. For me, as a tortoise in the running world, I can't imagine that many voices driving me forward. I know how encouraged I am when one or two familiar faces show up at miles 9 and 11 of a half- marathon. I don't need to focus on them, but their cheers motivate me to press on.
Then there is the matter of the race itself. The passage is not about a short sprint, but a race of endurance. Perseverance implies overcoming challenges and difficulties along the way. To run a physical race means running through discomfort and obstacles, especially in the longer runs (anything over ten miles counts for me.) I know I have run through muscle soreness, asthma attacks, stupidly hot and humid weather, and dehydration. But I also know that when things get too uncomfortable or dangerous (I keep an eye on my heart rate monitor) I slow down or take a walking break. I don't run all out when it hurts. My personal running isn't worth the risk.
But what about the race of faith? Do I back off when things get hard or do I run full bore no matter what happens? I know what I want to do. I want to be like those great martyrs who went on before and who are cheering me on to a strong finish. I don't care whether I finish strong. I want to finish completely emptied, wrung out, with nothing left in the tank.
Run until there is nothing left.
That's how I want to run whatever life I have. Whatever the marked course is for me, I will watch carefully for the signs. I will run all out until there is nothing left and the Lord says to me, "Well, done."
http://www.biblegateway.com/. Zondervan. 1995-2009. Web. 1 August 2010