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, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. - Hebrews 12:1-2
Keeping faith is an ongoing and daily struggle. Trusting God and His promises, abiding in Jesus, dealing with temptation and sin, being anxious for nothing, doing everything for the glory of God – it's like an endless battle. Actually, it’s more like a marathon. That’s how the Apostle saw the life of faith – as a race. At the beginning of this ministry, he saw what was ahead as a race…"I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course (a race course, track) and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:24) When he was called on to defend his ongoing ministry, he painted the picture as a marathon…"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly…But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others myself should be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). And when he knew his earthly life was coming to an end, he looked back on his race of faith and proclaimed… “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7).
Paul didn’t understand what it meant to “coast” in the Christian life. He never saw faith as anything but like running a marathon – one that requires discipline and endurance. The author of Hebrews tells us in the first verse of chapter 12, that we’re all in this race. The question is, are you running? Are you coasting? Are you sitting on the sidelines? Are you tired? Are you ready to quit? No matter where you find yourself, you can get back into the race and run to win with the help of the words in Hebrews 12. What do you win? Jesus! Forever! John Piper sums it up perfectly:
"The race of faith is life’s journey for the Christian. Imagine what would happen if we looked to Jesus every day. Every weight would fall off and every sin would untangle from us. Each look at Jesus would strengthen us to endure and finish well. He waits for us on the other side. He is our crown, and we will be with him forever. Every huff, every twinge of pain, and every prolonged day on earth is worth patiently enduring the journey to get to the finish line — to get to Jesus.”