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Run the Race: Find Your Motivation

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2a)

The above is one of my all-time favorite passages in Scripture. Considering that the Borgess Marathon will be consuming the thoughts and schedules of many in our community this weekend, I thought it would be fitting time to consider it. Indeed, numerous places in Scripture the Christian life is compared to the effort and exertion of a race (1 Corinthians 9:24, 2 Timothy 4:7. What do these few words from Hebrews teach us about that? I think this passage teaches us four things about what it means to run the Christian's race well, and we will examine each in turn throughout the month. Today: find your motivation (or, motivator) to run.

These verses begin with laying out the motivation we have to run our Christian race well. That motivation is the example of those who have run it before us. Remember, this verse follows immediately on the heels of the "Hall of Faith" in chapter 11. There the author described a whole host of committed believers who have run their race well. They are to be our example (for instance: "let us also lay aside..." that is, we should run the same way they have).

More than being our examples, they are also our cheer leaders! In chapter 12 they are now referred to as "a cloud of witnesses"--picture running a race on a track and the stands on every side are filled with people who are cheering for you. Though we can't see it, that's what's going on in the Christian life. We are surrounded by the saints who have gone on before, and that is meant to encourage us to run well. If you have ever run a race, or sat on the sidelines and watched one, you know the power of hearing people cheer one another on. Someone who is winded and barely able to lift their feet suddenly hears the voices of supporters rallying them on, and just like that they have renewed vigor and motivation to keep going.

As we run our race, we must remember the example and encouragement set by all believers who have run before us. Not just pillars of the faith, like Abraham and Moses (although certainly them). But also others whom God has graciously placed in our lives: parents, siblings, pastors, teachers, friends, and mentors. Let their godly example motivate us to run well. My wife recently completed a half marathon in Rockford Springs, and she explained to me the importance of finding another runner who can be your pacesetter--someone whose speed will challenge your own and so you make it your goal to stick behind them during the race. This is a biblical principle. The Apostle Paul said, “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us” (Philippians 3:17).

So, who in your life can be your "pacesetter"? Who will you join in imitating their Christian life? Who will be your example and encouragement? Who will motivate you to run that race that is before you? Answering that question is the first step in running well.

Jonathan Cruse