3.28.23 | Let Us Run: Hebrews 12:1-3


*In-person at 12 Bassett St, Providence RI

Prayer Guide:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Hebrews 12: 1-3

The author of Hebrews, after having set his or her audience metaphorically in the stadium, and exhorted them to strip themselves of the sin that entangles and the extra weights that hinder, commands them in the first person plural imperative (hortatory) tense: “let us run.” 

If any of you have ever been to a race, or better yet…been IN a race – you know that there is perhaps no situation as nerve wracking as those moments just before the gun goes off. After the warmups and the stretching and the carbo loading are over. After you have used the portapotty for the fifth time. Everything is pointing forward to that moment, when the runners line up and the gun is raised to the sky. “On your marks, set, BANG.”

How ridiculous would it be, then, after the gun has sounded, for a runner to just sit there. Or go find a cafe and order a coffee and a donut and scroll through their newsfeed. It is almost absurd to imagine it, especially if you’ve ever trained for and signed up for a race.

And yet in the spiritual world, we do exactly this!

The gun has gone off! There is only one thing we can do, we must do…only one thing that makes sense to do: run. We are not here to drink coffee and eat donuts. We’re not here to mill around. We are in a race – the course is marked out for us. Jesus awaits us at the finish line. The communion of saints is watching and cheering from the stands. RUN! Run the race. 

So many of us think…someday, once I graduate, I’ll start running after Jesus. Once I build up enough savings in my emergency fund. Once I have the job I want. Once I meet Mr. Right or Miss. Right. Once I am married with kids and they are grown up. Once I get all my life ducks in a row, according to my own timing and comfort level. Once I am living the Dream. THEN I’ll give it all to Jesus and run after him. 

We are only promised today, friends. We only have one time to work with. NOW. We only have one day in which to follow Jesus…and that is TODAY. We need to start running after Jesus. It is why God put us on earth. 

And…it will not be easy. The author tells us to run “with endurance.” The Greek word hypomeno means to “bear up under,” it means to stay under a weight. To carry a weight. As we run…it will not be a cake walk. The word for race is agona, where we get our English word agony or agonize. It refers to a struggle, a contest…as all races are. 

So many of us are surprised or shocked when, in the course of running after Jesus, we hit challenges, setbacks, and even heartbreaks. Loved ones get sick, even die. Friends betray us. It is harder than we thought it would be. Some of us began running after Jesus with the idea that revival would break out tomorrow and our friends and families would come to Jesus. And we’d never experience heartache, pain, suffering, sickness, loss, grief, or any of that. That we’d never have the wind knocked out of us. 

It is at this time that our task is just to keep running. To not lose heart. Part of how we do that is remembering that suffering is normal. It is to be expected. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers,” James writes, “when you experience trials of many kinds.” TRIALS are not an IF, trials are always a WHEN. 

Jesus himself endured the cross in his race, and its shame, before he sat down at the right hand of God. Part of how we run with endurance is that we expect suffering and hardship in the agona, the race we run. We consider Jesus’ own sufferings and trials…and this helps US not to lose heart, not to give up. And we remember that in addition to the crowd of witnesses surrounding us cheering us on. Jesus himself awaits us at the finish line. 

For Reflection/Prayer

  • Is there something holding you back from running after Jesus with all you’ve got? Is there something you’re waiting for? How about for the church or your spiritual community – what is holding people back from chasing after Jesus? Pray for the awareness of the urgency of NOW, of TODAY. 
  • What are the trials and sufferings that have shocked or surprised you in your “race” of following Jesus? How have these knocked the wind out of you or caused you to lose hope or lose heart? How about the wider church community – what are the things that have caused other Jesus followers to “lose heart,” or “give up”? Pray for those who have deconstructed their faith. Who have become embittered or given up on God…or are just burnt out and exhausted. Pray they’d catch a fresh vision of Jesus calling them to himself.