The athlete stood on the podium beaming, soaking in the grandeur of the moment. Thoughts flashed through his mind. The training was tough. Discipline was needed. There were difficulties along the way. He had to make sacrifices. Focus was needed. Even as the majestic national anthem was being played, he stood there humbled, yet proud, grateful that he had the privilege to represent his country. He completed the race with honour. It has been worth it!
The Christian journey is often compared to a race. Hebrews 12:1-3 tell us clearly that the Christian life is all about following Jesus Christ “the founder and perfecter of our faith”. We are thus exhorted to “… run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Heb 12:1b).
For all of us who call ourselves Christians, the starting point was when we welcomed Jesus Christ to be our Saviour and Lord. This would mark the beginning of our Christian discipleship journey. Travelling along in this journey, we would be receiving education and training, pursuing a career, enjoying hobbies, making decisions about marriage, setting up home or perhaps migrating to other countries. Along the way, there will be smooth and rough patches, delightful and challenging times.
The big question for us is how we keep the course as we run this race. And whether we will say at the end point, “it has been worth it!”
There are three clear exhortations for all us in this passage:
Running with perseverance
“ … let us run with endurance the race that is set before us …” (Heb 12:1b)
It’s a marathon, not a sprint. We need to keep on keeping on. Eugene Peterson put it simply in two words – “never quit!” There must be that determination to keep going, even when times get tough.
Minding the obstacles and hurdles
NLT’s more contemporary rendering will help us picture this truth: “let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.” (Heb 12:1a, NLT) Unnecessary extra weight must be shed. More seriously, there is need to watch out for anything that will cause the runner to trip and fall – potholes, garbage, obstacles. The message is clear: remove anything that will get in the way. We should also watch out for sin which will cause us to fall.
Keeping our focus
“ … looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…” (Heb 12:2)
By keeping focus on Jesus, we look to Him for direction and we move forward as He directs. When we do not do so, we will go off tangent. Keeping focus on the Author and Perfecter of our faith will prevent us from straying. The journey will not be easy. That is why the Holy Spirit is promised to every believer. He is our Helper (John 14:16, 26) and Guide (John 16:13). He will guide us along life’s pathway.
Counting the cost
In the call to discipleship, Jesus makes it clear that there is a cost to following Him. He said: “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it.” (Mark 8:34-35, NLT) We’ve been alerted. The road will be rough. There will be tough decisions to make. Often, it may mean having to swim against the tide. There’s no place for insisting on our own way. In other words, the Christian disciple must persevere, take measures to shed off unnecessary weights and keep focus on Jesus, running in full reliance on Him.
The call to Christian discipleship is indeed a call to missional living. It requires living an intentional life that is committed to fulfilling the mission that Christ entrusts to us wherever we are placed. As a student, husband, father, teacher, homemaker, lawyer, banker, artist, each of us must be mindful that we are on the Lord’s mission, called to live out the gospel message.
When we tell Jesus, “I will follow you”, we will need to ponder over what Jesus said in Mark 8:34-35 carefully. Are we willing? Is this the life worth living?
By David Yap, Advisory Pastor (YCKC Bulletin 19&20 March 2016)