From the time of the early Church until today Christians have been persecuted for their faith. It would appear that the greater the persecution, the quicker the Church grows. Jesus warned His disciples that some would be put to death, hated and imprisoned for His name’s sake. The verses above were written to Christians who were suffering, giving them advice on how they can stand firm and not lose heart whatever their circumstances may be.
A picture is painted of an athletic contest in an amphitheatre crowded with cheering spectators. The athletes were the Christians in the Church at Rome and the spectators were the Old Testament heroes of faith who had victoriously finished the race, despite hardships on the way. Though the race is strenuous, demanding perseverance because of discouragements on the way, by faith, the race is won. Three directions are given which point to victory. Each one begins with ‘Let us’.
Firstly, ‘Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles us’. The things that hinder act like weights which restrict freedom of activity and hinder progress in the race. It can be fear, anxiety, shame, worry, negative thoughts, self-pity, control and many other things which overtake our thoughts and emotions. For us, throwing off our hindrances may mean acknowledging them, facing them and receiving healing prayer to release us into the freedom Jesus won for us on the cross.
We all sin, because we have a sinful nature. The sin that entangles is different and is generally specific sin. To be entangled means to be involved with something or someone that makes it difficult to escape. It is the sin to which we cling that entangles and becomes a yoke of bondage, the power of which needs to be broken in the mighty name of Jesus so that we can become yoked to Him.
Secondly, ‘Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us’. The race which God marked out for each of us is a marathon rather than a sprint, and it has no short cuts. We will face joys and sorrows and maybe pain, suffering and rejection on the way, but we are called to keep in the race and run with perseverance and endurance. If we lose heart and drop out when the going gets tough, we will miss the prize.
Thirdly, ‘Let us fix our eyes on Jesus’. Running the race with perseverance is only possible when our eyes are fixed on Jesus. There are distractions, disappointments and difficulties all along the way. If we concentrate on these things, we can be in danger of losing heart and giving up. There are also attractions -seemingly good things - which can captivate us and divert us from the race God has marked out for us.
Jesus is the pioneer of our faith. His suffering was unique in that He died for the sin of the whole world. He kept his eye on the joy that was waiting for Him – the joy of doing the Father’s will. As our eyes are fixed on Jesus, He promises to keep us from stumbling and to present us before His glorious presence with great joy (Jude 1:24). Whatever the race marked out for us holds, we can be assured that the joy of doing the Father’s will surpasses everything.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the race marked out for me. Thank You for Your faithfulness in the past and for the knowledge that You will keep me to the end. I choose to keep my eyes fixed firmly on Jesus and my mind set on doing Your will. Please fill me afresh with the Holy Spirit and the joy and peace which He gives. In the name of Jesus, Amen.
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