The Race

 

HEBREWS 12:1 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 the race that is set before us,

Truly a race was set before each and every one of those Hebrew believers to whom this epistle was addressed. Howbeit, the great cloud of witnesses of which the verse alludes, probably doesn't look back to the previous chapter where there is a registry of certain elders who obtained a good report. Rather, this great cloud of witnesses no doubt refers to the only other usage of this word in HEBREWS.

RSV HEBREWS 10:28-29 A man who has violated the law of Moses dies without mercy at the testimony of two or three witnesses [martus]. How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by the man who has spurned the Son of God, and profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and outraged the Spirit of grace?

The writer of HEBREWS is concerned with the rapidly approaching day of judgment, of which he often alludes to in the epistle. He is warning his readers that after Christ's return a body of witnesses will be assembled so as to pass judgment upon their faithfulness. As such, we can to a lesser degree identify with these first century believers and be exhorted also to lay aside every weight and every sin that seeks to beset us from our own race. The Greek word translated beset means, "to prevent or retard running" (New Thayer's Greek English Lexicon). We must guard ourselves against anything which might prevent or retard our race.

As we run, we must look, but we must not look at our own feet for fear of stumbling.  We must look up to Him, Yeshua (Jesus), the author and finisher of faith (HEBREWS 12:2).  For our race, our walk (2 CORINTHIANS 5:7), yea our fight (1 TIMOTHY 6:12) is indeed, of faith!

PHILIPPIANS 2:7-8 But [Yeshua] made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

His race took incredible obedience, endurance and faithfulness to run, even unto death. For Him this was especially trying, for unlike all other men, He was not destined to die. He was immortal and could have lived on indefinitely had He chosen to, yet He put aside His own will and subjected Himself to GOD's, which was unto death. Allowing Himself to be killed, He put His existence completely in the hands of His Father. Wherefore…

PHILIPPIANS 2:9-11 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

That is His reward!  He simply and beautifully was obedient to run as GOD directed. But we know from LUKE 22 that He very much did not want to run that final lap. He was weary and exhausted, even in agony the Bible tells us (LUKE 22:41-44). Therefore GOD sent Him an angel to strengthen Him; and He gathered Himself up and did push on to the final end.

GOD has not asked us to choose which race we want to run. HIS purpose is not to help us accomplish those things in life which we bounce back and forth between. Our only true choice is whether or not we are willing to run the race HE has set before us. Of course too many choose not to run, or not to finish that race they began.

GALATIANS 1:6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel.

Paul was astonished, astounded if you will, that they hadn't remained faithful. "So soon removed!" Howbeit the jest of what Paul was saying was that they were removed from one thing to another. They didn't quit running altogether, they just found other races, other causes, other camps. They got side tracked, or pulled aside, or perhaps cast aside.

GALATIANS 5:7-9 Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. 

"Who did hinder you?"

Paul was well aware that someone had been planting doubts in their minds; someone had been turning them aside. I'm told that if you place a frog in boiling water, that he will immediately find his way out. However, if you place him in mild water, and then bring it to a boil, he will grow accustomed to the rising temperature, and just lie there cooking. I implore you!  Join with me in consistently checking the water, our immediate environment, for this leavening. Only the Bible, not a teaching about it, but only the Bible open and in front of us, can be our written standard. Let's not dedicate our lives to some cause only to wake up years later realizing that we have somehow gone astray.

GOD meeting our needs....

One can often hear of people talking about GOD meeting their needs, but few can with precision define what that fully entails. This is it! GOD has called us to run a specific race. Each person's race is different, so obviously each person's needs in running will also be different. I have not had the need to feed thousands of people with a single basket of food. Yeshua did. That was part of His race, and He didn't accomplish it because He had a positive mental attitude. None of that nonsense! It was simply because that was the course GOD had laid out for His life and He made the necessary decisions to run it.

Howbeit, if I quit running the race GOD has called me to, what needs do I have that GOD has promised to supply? If I decide not to carry out GOD's will, then HE is under no obligation to satisfy my needs, because I no longer have any. If we recall the various promises in the Bible, we will see that in the context (if not in the very verse), GOD is talking about giving so that they may have, in order to give to others.  Here are some familiar ones:

2 TIMOTHY 3:16-17 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

2 CORINTHIANS 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:

ROMANS 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

1 JOHN 3:22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.

It's really quite simple. Once the desires of our heart are in harmony with GOD's will, the floodgates of HIS perfect goodness rain down upon us. But the world would rather we be so preoccupied with the everyday things, "the sin which doth so easily beset us", that we never see all the grace, goodness and blessings GOD has waiting for us just around the corner.

"Building our Believing"

There is no magic mental state one arrives at where the entire world becomes his. No such thing as building your believing! This so-called new enlightenment has been deceiving many of GOD's people for years. Evidently, even the Twelve Apostles were caught up in it when they asked the Lord to "increase their faith" in LUKE 17.  He instructed them that if they had the faith of the tiniest seed, they could say unto the sycamine tree with its extensive root system to be "plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you".

The faith of the tiniest seed is all they would require. They didn't need to build their believing, nor have it built!  But they had asked to have their faith increased so they too could do the mighty miracles the Lord did. How noble! How wonderful! One thing they lacked though, GOD's will! Everybody wants to part the Red Sea, heal the blind, or some other miracle they saw on the Silver Screen. We must realize that GOD knows what HE is doing and when it's time for the big miracles, HE will be there for them. This is exactly what the apostles were after; they wanted to do the big miracles. But Yeshua told them a story so that they could realign their priorities more in harmony with GOD's will, as His Son had already done. Here is the record:

LUKE 17:7-10  But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?

Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow [think] not. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do. 

"Unprofitable servants" you question? Were the apostles themselves "unprofitable servants"? Perhaps, but the truth Yeshua is teaching  is quite plain. If we would delight in doing the big miracles, perhaps we should first do "everything we were told to do" and "after that" see what the LORD has planned! Once we have proved ourselves faithful in that which is least, then perhaps we will be given that which is our due.

GOD has known from before the foundation of the world what we would require in our lives. We have been adequately prepared for our race, and we are able to run through to the end. All it takes is GOD's guidance and our faithful endurance (HEBREWS 6:12; 10:36), one step after another.

1 CORINTHIANS 7:17-24 But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches. Is any man called being circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? Let him not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.

Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called. Art thou called being a servant? Care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather. For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant. Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men. Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God. 

There is no doubt a course, a race charted for each of our lives.  It's not GOD's desire that I run neither your race nor you mine, but simply that we each remain faithful to HIS calling in Christ. It's HIS calling in the Body of Christ. It's not HIS calling in any organization; it's in His Body!

"at work within us"

As we walk with our heavenly Father, walking in HIS light, we enjoy fellowship with HIM. We live love according to the guidelines of the Bible (i.e.. thinking no evil, living peaceably with others, not envious, etc.). Our relationship with GOD is growing tighter as HE continues to work in our hearts, and we are becoming more aware of how HE works within us. Remember, GOD has the whole Universe at HIS disposal.

We continue to look for opportunities to do good (GALATIANS 6:10). When we are on track, GOD can cross our path with someone who has a need. Because GOD has prepared us for this moment, we are able to recognize their need, and help (2 CORINTHIANS 5:7). We will have seen GOD's hand of deliverance in another's life, but more than that, we will have known that the Creator of life itself has been at work within us.

1 JOHN 2:3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 

When we obey His commands, when we follow the course He has laid out for us, then we begin to know Him and our joy will know no bounds.

PHILIPPIANS 2:12-13 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out [demonstrate] your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.           

GOD is not away on vacation! HE is at work today. But it is not necessarily our desires or our pleasures HE is accomplishing. It is HIS pleasures, which are always good.

PHILIPPIANS 2:14-15 Do all things without murmurings and disputings: that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.

What an incredible truth! Yes, GOD is light and as believers walk and talk and act for HIM, they are the lights of the world. Let us run our race with joy and peace and let's not be sidetracked by the desires of the flesh (1 JOHN 2:16). Let's decide today, that today we will as HE wills. If we have strayed from the race or stumbled, let's call upon GOD's mercy so as to get moving stronger than ever before.

Yeshua endured by humbling Himself and being obedient to His Father. The apostle Paul knew that he was what he was only by the grace of GOD (1 CORINTHIANS 15:9-10), yet if he were to boast, it was only in the afflictions that GOD had delivered him from (2 CORINTHIANS 11:30). We would do well to remember that it's not what we have from our accomplishments that is important, but rather what we accomplish with what we have.

Let's pray that by GOD's mercy and grace we will be able to close the last page of our own life, crossing the finish line and exclaiming as Paul did.

2 TIMOTHY 4:7-8 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 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.