In the part 1 of this post we discovered there is a solution to the problem of stripping off the burdensome weights of life and the sin that easily trips us up. Hebrews 12:2 tells us the answer is staying focused on Jesus. This is not easy in a fast paced world of distractions that avert our attention away from the only one who is the author and perfecter of faith. We have to be intentional in every area of life. From the time we wake up, until we fall asleep, we need to ask Jesus for his wisdom in every situation we face. If we want to know what he would do, we have to know him completely and the only way to do this is to study his life through his Word. Then listen for the Holy Spirit’s voice to speak his truth at just the right time.
So how do we practically strip off the things that slow us down and the sins that trip us up and how do we keep running the race with endurance? As far as sins that trip us up, if we have God’s Holy Spirit living inside of us, He will convict us of our sins and we can confess and ask for his forgiveness, which he freely gives. But if we ignore him and don’t change, then He will discipline us because he loves us (Hebrews 12:6). So, he has given us the gift of choice. Keep on sinning and get tripped up (which usually means fall flat on your face and experience the humiliation and bruises) or listen to the voice of the Spirit and enjoy peace and right living God’s way (Hebrews 12:11).
So, now let’s head over to the starting line and focus on how to run this race set before us with endurance. Remember we all are participants in the race of life, but each of us has a specific race set before us, whether it be a sprint, 5k or marathon. If we are fortunate, we are running in a race we enjoy. But all too often, many of us are struggling in a race we wish we could cross the finish line yesterday or participate in a different race all together.
The apostle Paul was a man who knew about different races in life, going from the race to destroying those who followed Jesus to actually joining and leading those in that exact race. He wrote a letter to the Philippian believers while sitting in a jail cell bound by chains, not the kind of race any of us would gladly choose. You would think that Paul would certainly have difficulty “running” the race set before him, but his temporary off course trek in prison did not stop him. He wrote to these saints (holy ones) in Christ Jesus to encourage them in their own race. He tells them how to have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had when he walked on this earth (Philippians 2:1-18). He wrote that they should be like-minded, having the same love (like that of Jesus), being one in spirit and of one mind. Then he gave practical ways to do this which includes the following:
1) Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. (Notice it says nothing.) Be the “runner” who is not out to prove he or she is the fastest or best, looking for fame and glory. All glory is for God alone.
2) In humility, value others above yourselves. (Yes, even the people you don’t like!) Be the ‘runner” who let’s a slower, less experienced “runner” or even the arrogant, prideful “runner” pass ahead of you.
3) Look to the interests of the others, not your own. (Again, even those you don’t really like!) Be the “runner” who takes time to help the slower, less experienced “runner.”
4) Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. (This does not say work for salvation!) This means agree with God who is working in you to give you the desire and the power to do what pleases him and to fulfill his good purpose. Be the “runner” who asks God for his will in the race, no matter if it means not winning.
5) Do everything without grumbling or arguing. (Everything!) Be the “runner” who accepts whatever happens in the race, knowing God is in control.
Did Paul’s word step on any of your toes? If so, that means the Spirit is nudging you of thoughts, words or actions that you may need to get rid of. But we don’t have to do these on our own. Jesus gives us the strength and the power to eliminate ungodly things from our lives. He’s the carb diet you need for energy. Jesus said, “Come to me all who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, NLT). With Jesus you will never hit the wall. We may not be able to just quit our race (ex. walk out of our job at the present time) or know the outcome of our race (ex. know what God has planned for our future), but we can exchange our heavy burden for his rest by changing our attitude to be more like Christ’s. A rest that fills our hearts with peace and makes the race more enjoyable.
All of these runner’s tips won’t work if you are not a believer in Christ. You’re on your own in the race, but you don’t have to be. Jesus is ready and waiting for you to get in the starter’s block with him. He loves you and came to earth for the purpose of taking on all of the sin of mankind so that we wouldn’t have to receive the punishment we all deserve, which is eternal life in a tormenting hell without God. He did this by giving up his life for us on a cross so that we could have eternal life in heaven with him. Yes, he did die, but he didn’t stay dead! He rose from the dead and went back to heaven to prepare a place for his children. He then sent his Spirit to live in his followers to help them run the race here on earth until they cross the finish line into heaven.
So, lace up your running shoes and follow Coach Jesus!