Ready, Set, Run!

The past two weeks have been hard for me. I co-lead a senior girls group in Legacy Student Ministry, and as many of you know, we had our last official youth group night of the school year and the celebration of the senior students in the youth group. Needless to say, I have kind of been a sappy mess. The love I have for my girls is beyond what I can express.

Over these weeks, I have also been trying to put into words the advice I want to give them and each of the seniors in our youth group as they move into the next steps of their lives. I was looking at some different scriptures but kept being drawn back to Hebrews 12.

Hebrews 12:1-2 says:

“Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

No matter where I am in my life, each time I read those verses I feel conviction, motivation, and an ignited flame of desire to do this life for the Lord.

Who is the large cloud of witnesses and what should it mean to us as Christ-followers?

If we take a step back to Hebrews chapter 11, the author of Hebrews provides us with a multitude of examples of real people who lived in the Old Testament, each of whom looked forward in faith to the coming Messiah. People like Abraham, Abel, Enoch, Noah, Sarah, Isaac, Joseph, and Moses who paved the way for us.

We are surrounded by these saints of the past in a unique way. One of my favorite illustrations is that these faithful believers who have gone before us are not merely spectators to the race we run. Rather, we ought to act as if they are in sight and cheering us on to the same victory in the life of faith that they obtained. We are to be inspired and learn from these godly examples. The cloud is referred to as “large” or “great” in some translations because it indicates the millions of believers who have gone before us, each bearing witness. We must rid of every hindrance and sin – anything that threatens our relationship with God, slows us down, or does not renew our minds to Christ-likeness – and persevere.

What does it mean to run the race?

Just like the saints that came before us, we must build endurance and perseverance through any trial. The “race” is the Christian life, and it’s a marathon, not a sprint. As believers, we are called to stay the course and remain faithful to the end. We even see Paul using this same imagery in 2 Timothy 4:7 when he says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

Think about an actual marathon. It takes training, stamina, discipline, and commitment. Living a life for Jesus also requires such attributes. Just as an actual marathon race course is set and marked by the people putting on the race, the race course of believers is established by God. We run this race for Christ, fixing our eyes on Jesus, because he perfectly finished the race before us, already at the finish line. And, much like marathon runners, we also need to have a daily regimen. Our regimen looks like prayer, worship, reading God’s Word, and daily examining our lives for anything hindering our race.

Seniors and graduates, I urge you to continue to run the race. If you are moving elsewhere for work and school, don’t wait to find a church that preaches from the true Word of God, and don’t wait to get involved in some way. If you are staying local, continue to reach out to your leaders and mentors to walk with you into your new chapter of life. Build a regimen of prayer and time in Scripture. Find other believers to hold you accountable to these disciplines, and don’t ever be afraid to tell them you are struggling with a hindrance or a sin.

God has set a race course for you. Trust in His will for your life, especially in the trials and difficult times. Ask the Lord for strength and a desire to maintain the course. Give all your anxieties to Him and pray in all circumstances. You have an important opportunity as young people in today’s secular and divisive society to live differently than your peers while showing (the) power of God (as He works through you by His Spirit). Build your endurance. Run the race for our soon returning King, for our reward is eternal.