The Long Run
“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…” Heb 12:1-2
“You don’t have to be fast. But you’d better be fearless.” – Christopher McDougall, Born to Run
Never, and I mean NEVER, in a million years did I think that I would become “a runner.” Most of my life has been spent in sedentary hours reading, studying, and eating (repeat). But, as I made dietary and lifestyle changes, running became a part of my regimen. Like Forrest Gump, one day I started running and I haven’t stopped since! I love It because in a world that is so complex and confusing, running is simple. It resets my brain. It clears my head. It calms me down.
I also love reading about running. Recently, I’ve been listening to Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run on Audible. The book introduces readers to the world of distance running and endurance training. He writes about 100 mile ultramarathons through mountains and canyons. The Bad Water Ultramarathon, for example, is a 135 mile foot race… through Death Valley… in the middle summer when temperatures reach upwards of 130F! “You don’t have to be fast,” writes McDougall, “But you’d better be fearless.” Endurance runners have to push their bodies for long distances that can take hours and sometimes even days. They learn how to conserve their energy. They learn how to pace themselves. They learn how to manage the course. They learn how to adapt to changing conditions.
It’s really not all that surprising, then, that Scripture uses running as such a prevalent metaphor (cf. 2 Tim 4:7, Gal 5:7, Isaiah 40:31, 1 Cor 9:24-25, Heb 12:1-2). Consider the wisdom from Heb 12:1-2ff. The book of Hebrews is all about endurance- persevering until the end- not turning back. To that end, the Hebrew writer gives us the following encouragement:
- We are Not Alone. We are surrounded by a “great cloud of witnesses” (cf. Heb 11). Read chapter 11 of Hebrews. “By faith Abel… By faith Enoch… By faith Noah… By faith Abraham… By faith Sarah…etc.” This course has been well run. It’s long. It’s daunting. But there’s a comfort in knowing that it is possible through faith alone (sola fide!). Moreover, the Hebrew writer almost envisages the faithful saints as a crowd cheering on God’s elect. Keep going! Look to Jesus! The Hebrew writer points to the faith of these men and women as our inspiration for enduring (“Therefore, since…”). They are not “heroes.” They were simply given the gift of faith- the same gift given to you, by which you are able to endure mile after weary mile.
- Let Go of Baggage. You don’t see runners carrying much. You don’t even see runners wearing much! Weight will slow you down. Here, the writer tells us that sin will slow us down. We let go of the baggage, we let go of the weight, we let go of sin in order to run fast, smooth, and free!
- Life is Aerobic. Life isn’t a sprint. It’s not even a marathon. It’s an Ultra! Our bodies can only endure a distance race if we remain within our aerobic capacity. Meaning, if our heart rate goes up too much, we cross into anaerobic exercise and our lactate thresholds are maxed out. In other words, to run long, we must run relatively slow. Thus, the Hebrew writer exhorts us to run with “endurance” (or, patience). We are called to put one foot in the front of the other, and even if you feel like you’re barely plodding along, you’re still making “relentless forward progress.” We very often want to take on too much and do it all. But if we’re not careful, we’ll soon be sucking wind, unable to keep up the pace.
- Eyes Up When Weary. Lastly, we are told to look to Jesus… “so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” (v. 3). When running, the moment will come when we ask ourselves, “why?” In those moments of weariness when we don’t feel like we can take one more step, we must set our attention, our gaze, our running trance on Jesus. He endured the cross so that we can endure the race. He was faithful to the very end. He is the author and finisher of our faith (v. 2). So, look up weary hearts! Don’t stare down at the road! Lift your head, see Jesus lest you grow weary or fainthearted. He is worth it. Endure. Finish the race.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Pastor Matthew S. Rickett