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Run the Race: Eyes on the Prize

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)
 

In our final study on this passage from Hebrews, we want to consider the most important aspect of running our Christian race well: keeping our eyes on the prize. Yes, we need proper motivation and encouragement to run, we need to rid ourselves of things that would encumber our progress, we need to prepare for the long-haul. But none of this matters if we do not keep our eyes on the prize. In this case, that doesn't mean a trophy or a finish line. It means "looking to Jesus."

This implies we have already begun our race, and now that we have we must continually keep our gaze fixed forward (or upward) as opposed to backward. We are not to look back on the things that we have left behind, or the sin and weight that we have cast off. That is in the dirt and in the dust where ti belongs, whereas we are headed for glory. Colossians offers similar advice for the Christian life: "“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God" (3:1–3). The point that Paul is making there is quite simple: your final destination is in the heavenlies, where even now spiritually you are raised with Christ. So if that's your destination, keep your focus on the things that are above. You belong above in heaven, not below on earth.

Jesus Himself says the same thing in Luke 9: "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God" (v. 62). Running a race well can never entail looking back. Looking back implies our heart and our desires and our loves are all still back at the starting line, and not in the kingdom of God. When we look back we reveal that we actually belong with the world and the things of the world, and not with the world to come. And if we belong to the world, what will eventually become of us? (Hint: read the story about Lot's wife--it's a scary thing to look back!)

Instead, let us run toward heaven by keeping the eyes of our heart fixed on the One who is already there. The One who has already run the race and come in first. The One who stands victorious in the heavenly places and is waiting to share that victory with us. Let us keep our minds and hearts fixated on Christ, who holds the prize at the finish line--and the prize is Himself.

Jonathan Cruse