47. LET US RUN WITH PATIENCE THE RACE THAT IS SET BEFORE US
Felix Ngunjiri Gichuri
Reading: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience and endurance the race that is set before us,” (Heb 12:1 [KJV])
Let Us Run with Patience
The word ‘patience’ means the ability to continue waiting, hanging on, doing something enduring difficulties or challenges. Patience can be defined as the ability to accept delay or trouble calmly. Endurance can be defined as experiencing and surviving pain or hardship. In the Bible, patience means cheerful endurance. It is waiting on God and enjoying the wait with anticipation as you look up on God and not on the problem.
The Christian race is such a long race and sometimes difficult, that it requires great endurance on our part in order to remain faithful. Christians should not faint under their trials or give up in the race or dropout before finishing the race. There needs to be a steadfastness and a sustaining perseverance on our part. We can’t quit when the going gets rough or tough. We must run and keep running until we cross the finish line. We will have to face and overcome fears, obstacles, personality conflicts, and fatigue. Some people find the race to be too much and they give up, but most keep enduring through the most difficult of struggles because of the prize awaiting the one who finishes the race. That is what Satan would have us do, to drop out of the race. The devil sometimes launches attacks upon us to make us collapse before finishing the race. To fail to finish the race is the most terrible and devastating loss for every pilgrim.
If we are going to win this race set before us, we will have to learn how to push through pain, and continue when all that is within us says quit. The book of Hebrews was written to Jewish believers who were suffering persecution for their Christian faith. People were dying horrible deaths, their goods were being confiscated, and they were being imprisoned for simply testifying that Jesus is the Christ as recorded in the book of Matthew 16:16. They endured all manner of persecutions because of prophesying their faith in Christ “And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;” (Heb 11:36 -37 [KJV]) Some of those Jewish Christians were considering going back to Judaism because it was the accepted religion in the Roman Empire. It was therefore necessary for the author of the book of Hebrews to write to them to urging them to continue when all that was within them was saying ‘quit’.
Let us Run the Race Set Before Us
“The race set before us” is literally the pathway that lies ahead of us. The race set before you is similar to the journey set for the Israelites from Egypt (the land of bondage) to Canaan (the Promised Land). The race set before the Israelites was a very short 2 weeks walking distance. “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God (who knows our human weakness), said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.” (Exodus 13:17) The starting point of the journey being Rameses, in the Eastern Delta, not far from the Red Sea, through the route which led along the coast, along the chief towns of the Philistines would have been very near to reach Canaan. The distance along this line was not more than about 320 kilometres (like from Nairobi to Garissa/Kitale or Siaya, or from Nairobi to Nanyuki and back), and might have been accomplished in a fortnight.
The race set before each of us is a straight path similar to the straight path available for the Israelites as recorded above, but because of the rebellious nature of man, God decided to take them to the Promised Land through a rigorous journey to test them to see what was in their hearts.After crossing the Red Sea, Moses sent 12 young men one from each of the twelve tribes to spy the Promised land, and bring a report on whether it be good or bad. After spying the land for 40 days, they brought back the report to Moses. But their response and subsequent disobedience angered God and He vowed that none of those who rebelled against Him would enter Canaan, that they would die in the wilderness. God in His anger told Moses that “Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice. Surely they shall not see the land which I swore unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it: But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and has followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it.” (Num 14:22-24 [KJV])
“And the LORD spoke unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me. Say unto them, As truly as I live, says the LORD, as you have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you: Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me, Doubtless you shall not come into the land, concerning which I swore to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun. But your little ones, which you said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised. But as for you, your carcases, they shall fall in this wilderness. And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcases be wasted in the wilderness. After the number of the days in which you searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall you bear your iniquities, even forty years, and you shall know my breach of promise. I the LORD have said, I will surely do it unto all this evil congregation, that are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die.” (Num 14:26-35 [KJV]) Those aged over 40 years met the wrath of God due to their rebellion and all died in the wilderness and the race set before them came to a fateful end.
It is God’s will for our lives that we run the race set before us. Hebrews 12:2 tells us to “let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” The race set before you requires discipline. You are required to follow the rules of the race. Apart from following the rules of the race set for participants, one is required to be physically fit so that your body does not fail you. God is urging you today to discipline your body so that your body will not fail you during the race and you find yourself staggering and finding yourself in another person’s lane and you get disqualified. Keep your body under your control and subject it to your authority by telling it that you are the one calling the shots. Paul told the church in Corinth how he manages to keep his body under control and the reason why he keeps his body under his authority: “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” (1Cor 9:27 [KJV]). Another version says that “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1Cor 9:27 [ESV2011])
Run Your Own Race to Glorify God’s Name
You are not supposed to run someone else’s race. Run and if you cannot, walk in His way. “Wait for the Lord and keep His way, And He will exalt you to inherit the land; When the wicked are cut off, you will see it.” (Psalm 37:34)
Run the race set before you inside your lane from start to finish. There are corner judges to report those who If you run in someone else’s lane, you will be disqualified and not get the reward. If you drift or stagger and be judged to have run in somebody else’s’ lane, you will be disqualified or may be banned for some period or for life. When you stagger and run in someone else’s lane, you might be trampled by the one running on that lane and get injured.
This race is not always easy. It’s a long, grueling marathon across the hills and valleys of life and it often requires great resolve on our part to endure it. The whole marathon, every stretch, every bump, every pot hole and hilly terrain must be run with patience and endurance to glorify God. It is a race set before you by God and therefore it is not your race but God’s. Whatever we do should please God “so that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” (1Pet 4:11 [KJV])
The race set “before us” is a forward looking race where we are expected to fix our eyes on Our Lord who went before us and has conquered on our behalf so that we enter into His rest. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus our forerunner who is already set down at the right hand of God the Father in heaven. “Jesus our forerunner has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 6:20)
As some have said, we must finish well. Note how this goes with some of Paul’s final thoughts and words – Paul declared of himself in 2 Timothy 4:7 that “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”
Run to Finish the Race to Receive the Incorruptible Crown
Run with patience with all the expected discipline and fitness so as to receive the incorruptible crown. An imperishable crown. It is not a material crown, like the wreath of fading leaves. It is a crown of righteousness and of life, and is consequently in its nature immortal. It is worn in the land of incorruption and of immortality. It blooms perennially in the atmosphere of heaven.
I believe that Paul was a real sports fan. He so often makes his analogies from sports. In the book of Hebrews chapter 12, Paul brings us to the Olympic arena as he speaks of the marathon race. It is important to run with patience the race that is set before us if we have to win this race, by laying aside every weight and keeping our eye on the goal. To win you must be focused on the goal. To the Philippians, Paul spoke of pressing toward the mark, pressing toward the goal.
The persevering obedience of faith in Christ, was the race set before the Hebrews, wherein they had either to win the crown of glory, or have everlasting misery for their actions; and it is the one set before us. There is a proneness in believers to grow weary, and to faint under trials and afflictions. As followers of Christ, we are like runners in a race in order to run to please our Master. Paul expressed this in his letter to the Philippians: “Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14 HCSB)
They that run in a race, run all of them, but only one receives the prize, so run that you as an athlete might obtain the prize. “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; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1Cor 9:24-27 [ESV2011])
He speaks about our coming before the Judge’s seat to receive our awards for how we ran our race of life here on earth. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive his due for the things done in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Cor 5:10) He spoke of the discipline necessary to compete in sports, suggesting that if they are willing to go through such discipline for a corruptible crown, how much more should we be willing to live a disciplined life for the incorruptible crown. He testified of himself, that he had “fought a good fight, he had finished his race, and was now looking to standing before the Judge, to receive his award, the crown of righteousness which the Lord our righteous Judge shall give not only to him, but to all who loved His appearing.” (Timothy 4:7-8)
The prize we desire to receive from the Lord after finishing the race set before us are crowns. “Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a crown that will fade away, but we a crown that will never fade away.” (1Cor 9:25 [HCSB]) The incorruptible crown is for those who live a disciplined life. The victor’s crown will be given to those who will have run the race with self-control, never taking the focus off Jesus.
The Crown of Rejoicing
Another crown to be given to those who finish the race is the crown of rejoicing. Paul had a great affection for the Christians in Thessalonica. They were a young Church, who were growing in grace, maturing in the faith and making steady progress in their Christian walk. And although there were a few dissenters who tried to undermine Paul’s authority and others who had regressed in their spiritual growth, their enthusiastic response to the gospel of Christ was a great joy and encouragement to Paul, and his fellow-labourers in Christ.
Paul’s letters were designed to strengthen their faith, encourage them towards holy living, correct any false doctrine, remind them of his apostolic authority, and further instruct them in Church-age doctrines and principles of godly conduct. Sadly, Paul and his companions had to leave Thessalonica before the Church was fully established, because they were met with strong opposition from the Jewish community, and the apostle did not want the fledgling believers to be persecuted because of him.
There were certain teachings that needed to be more firmly established in Thessalonica when Paul had to leave. His letters needed to reaffirm certain doctrinal issues. We see him reestablishing his teaching about the return of the Lord Jesus for His Church-age saints, together with the circumstances surrounding the Rapture of the Church.
Paul and his companions were obviously pleased with the spiritual development of those believers, and he referred them as ‘OUR hope; OUR joy; and OUR crown of rejoicing.’ “For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation?” was his rhetorical question. His immediate answer was, “Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? For YOU are our glory and joy.”
“For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For you are our glory and joy.” (1Thess 2:19-20 [KJV])
Paul not only taught these new believers about the return of the Lord in the clouds for His Church, at the Rapture, but also mentioned the spiritual rewards that will be given to believers at His coming. Paul described these believers, who had been born again through his ministry as his hope, his joy and the “Crown of Rejoicing” he would receive at Christ’s return.
Crown of Righteousness
Another crown to be given to those who will have remained righteous to the end is and are eagerly waiting for His appearing during His Second Coming is the crown of righteousness. If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, at the Last Day, He is going to give you a crown – a crown of righteousness. Not a crown of your righteousness. No. A crown of His righteousness. Jesus wore a crown of thorns, so that we might wear a crown of righteousness. “There is reserved for me in the future the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all those who have loved His appearing.” (2Tim 4:8 [HCSB])
Crown of Life
Those who triumph over temptations or persecutions will receive the crown of life. It will be given to those who patiently endure trials and temptations. “A man who endures trials is blessed, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12 [HCSB]) The Crown of Life referred to in James 1:12 and Revelation 2:10; “is bestowed upon “those who persevere under trials.” Jesus references this crown when he tells the Church in Smyrna to “not be afraid of what you are about to suffer… Be faithful even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.” “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Rev 2:10 [ESV2011])
Crown of Glory
The faithful shepherd’s work will not be in vain as they shall also receive the crown of glory for faithfully caring for the flock (1 Peter 5:2-4); “Therefore, as a fellow elder and witness to the sufferings of the Messiah and also a participant in the glory about to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you: Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but freely, according to God’s will; not for the money but eagerly; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (1Pet 5:1-4 [HCSB])
Those who shall serve the Lord, the church He is coming to take for Himself so that where He is we may be also, shall reign with Him forever and ever. “And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever. And he said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly be done. Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.” (Rev 22:1-7 [KJV])
And what are we going to do with those crowns? Revelation 4:10-11 gives us a picture of the heavenly scene. We read there that the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: “You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.”
Casting our crowns before His throne. That is the glorious picture of the future. An incorruptible Savior. His incorruptible blood on the mercy seat forever, for us. And because of Him, and what He has done, we the believers have an incorruptible inheritance, we will have incorruptible bodies, and we shall receive an incorruptible crown. No corruption. No decay. No compromise. Complete and final and eternal victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ. And we shall give all the glory and honor and praise to Him, for all eternity, because He is worthy.