The Christian life is often compared in Scripture to different sporting codes. Boxing (I Cor. 9:26; I Tim. 1:18; 6:12; II Tim. 4:7), wrestling (Eph. 6:12) or even to running a race (Hebrews 12) – not a race where one has to come first in order to win, but rather where one is considered a winner just for having finished the race.
I remember watching marathon races on TV and always feeling sorry for those who had run all day long but then within metres of the finish line, they collapse; completely fatigued; unable to go that last stretch. That’s sad in the physical races of life, but even sadder when in the race of faith, when precious children of God grow tired of running. The pressures mount and one’s faith is tested and tried. Putting one foot in front of the other seems an impossible task.
At a time in history, when faith, both as a whole as well as on a personal basis is being challenged, it would not be amiss to pose the question: “Dear Reader, are you growing tired in the race of faith?” Have you felt like giving up lately?
Where can we turn to? Where can we look during times when we are being bombarded relentlessly, it seems.
I’d like to suggest three perspectives; three places to look, if you will, all drawn from God’s Word that will hopefully enable us to move forward even when our faith is under pressure.
1. Look Back
In Hebrews 11 we find a list of the heroes of faith; we are walked down the corridors of history and given a snapshot of men and women who left their mark, not so much for their great accomplishments – some of them accomplished very little from a worldly perspective – but because of their faith. The writer to the Hebrews then goes on to say “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses” … (Hebrews 12:1).
One of the encouragements drawn from this is for us to look back at their examples; the trails they have blazed and draw from that the motivation for the race we are running.
These witnesses are mentioned as a means of reminding us believers in 21st Century Australia, that we are not running in isolation. The baton of faith in Jesus Christ; the baton of the Gospel that has been passed down to us from generation to generation, which we have now picked up and run with, is one that we carry forward, by God’s grace.
Have you felt like giving up lately? Yes, the race has been a long one and sure, there have been hurdles along the way, but keep running! Take a glance back. Remember those who have gone on before and be encouraged; be cheered on by the memory of their testimonies; of their faith in Jesus Christ!
2. Look Inward
When one prepares for a physical race, in order to get ready, one needs to shed excess body fat. Unless one is a WWF wrestler or heavyweight boxer, any athlete will tell you that in order to run effectively, they need to shed the excess weight.
Within the spiritual context, what are some of the weights that weigh us down? We all know that sin trips us up, however what about those things that weigh us down that are not sinful? The weight of fear; of worry; of low self-esteem, etc.
Dear Reader, you have been called to run the race of faith and for some you’ve been running for a long time. We praise God for that. However, what is weighing you down? What is causing your steps to falter, or your knees to buckle? Will you self-reflect, look inward and by God’s grace, will you take that off? Will you cast it aside?
Faith under pressure? Look back; look inward and thirdly,
3. Look Forward!
The writer to the Hebrews encourages his readers: “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith…”
There’s a beautiful picture being painted here for us. One of the meanings of the word used for ‘pioneer’ (‘archegos’ in the Greek) is “Captain”! We are told that in earlier sporting events, the team captain would run the race and then wait at the finish line to encourage his teammates as they followed in his steps.
Imagine this: when the runners of that race got weary and worn-out, about to give up, by looking up and seeing the face of their captain at the finish line would certainly enable them to push through the pain, the cramps, the exhaustion and endure to the end, perhaps even falling into the arms of their captain!
Is anyone feeling tired? Is anyone on the brink of giving up? It seems you have run for so long and you cannot go one step further.
Look ahead! Look to the finish line! There you’ll see the face of the Captain of your salvation! The Author of your faith! The one who pressed through the loneliness in Gethsemane’s Garden; the One who pressed through the desertion in Pilate’s judgment hall; the One Who endured the agony of Calvary’s cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Reader in times like these when our faith is under pressure, take a moment to look up, look inward, look forward and keep running!