Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us… (Hebrews 12:2 HCSB)
I used to run nearly every morning before I got sick. It’s funny because when I was younger I hated to run. I used to say that I needed a reason to run like a basketball game. That all changed nearly 10 years ago when I did a weight loss program where they taught me to eat right and to exercise after 20 years of very little exercise.
I remember the first outdoor run. It was really more like a slow shuffle down to the park and back – no more than 2 miles. I huffed and puffed in fits and starts. I don’t know when it happened but somewhere along the way I learned to love the feeling of pushing my body to do more. I looked forward to getting outside early in the morning and feeling my lungs burn as they ached for more oxygen. It’s true what they say about the “runners high”.
Let us run with endurance
Eventually I ran a half-marathon 13.1 miles. It was 2 hours and 20 minutes of exquisite pain. Early on in the race people were passing me by left and right but I knew that I could not maintain a pace like that so I plodded along slow and steady. Soon I was passing those same people as they walked.
to stay under (behind), that is, remain; figuratively to undergo, that is, bear (trials), have fortitude, persevere: – abide, endure, (take) patient (-ly), suffer, tarry behind.
The word translated endurance is from two root words which literally mean to stay under. When you run a long distance your body is constantly complaining to your mind. Every step you take you have to make a choice to stay under that pain. You know you could stop at any given step… no one is forcing you to continue you must chose to stay under.
The race that lies before us
The word translated race is agōn. This word literally means a place of assembly and in this context it is a picture of a contest. There is something different about participating in a race. When I was training early in the mornings I was running by myself. But when you go to a race you check in and get your timer and your number that you pin on your chest. You walk past the true competitors who are running at the front – they are going to finish in half the time that you are but no matter there is a spirit of camaraderie as everyone encourages each other.
Your anticipation builds as the race starts and then as you make your way across the start people you don’t even know are clapping and shouting. Then as you make your way out on the course other runners will share encouragement. “Keep going” they say when you feel like quitting. Finally you realize that you are drawing near the end and you think “I can make it!” When I finished my first triathlon I broke into tears as I crossed the finish line. People were cheering for me… people I didn’t know but it didn’t matter I had finished the race it was as if we had all done something great together.
The New Testament often uses the word picture of a race as a metaphor for my life as a believer. The race is not a sprint over in seconds but a long slog where your impulse to quit will be severely tested.
“And now I am on my way to Jerusalem, bound in my spirit, not knowing what I will encounter there, except that in town after town the Holy Spirit testifies to me that chains and afflictions are waiting for me. But I count my life of no value to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace.
(Acts 20:22-24 HCSB)
Paul knew that his race would involve many hardships. He would be tempted to give up but he also knew that finishing a long race is mostly about making up your mind to run and not quit until you reach the finish line.
The Choice To Stay Under
I did not choose to get sick. I did not choose a life of pain. My life in this body is what it is and I cannot change that. I did choose to be a follower of Jesus Christ 33 years ago. I cannot choose the circumstances of my life but I can choose how I will face them. I can choose to “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:2 HCSB) or I could choose to be depressed, angry and bitter.
Just as it did when I ran, I know that my body will complain to my mind. Only this time I can’t just stop running to make the pain go away. This pain is not going anywhere. The only choice I have now is how I will live through it. I have to choose to stay under the disciplines of prayer, thanksgiving, praise and the Word.
God help me to stay under this load.