Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me — the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace (Acts 20:24).
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).
What do these words mean to you,” persevere in running the race that lies before us” (Hebrews 12:1)? Your answer will be related to how big your view of the Christian life is. Is it limited to living a moral life? Is it possible that God may want to expand your horizons a bit?
In a world that is filled with temptations and challenges, the Scripture verses above tell us that our lives have a purpose beyond just trying our best to be good. They tell us that the Christian life is like a race, and that the prize is nothing less than Jesus himself, the eternal Son of God.!
No wonder the author of Hebrews encourages us to persevere! We are running this race so that we can live with Jesus forever. And not just forever in heaven, but “forever” starting here and now. We have the opportunity to be transformed, to be filled to overflowing with divine, imperishable, heavenly life.
So how are we to persevere? By throwing off “every burden and sin that clings to us” (Hebrews 12:1). Our days are so often full of struggles. We feel tempted by sin on every side. Our children anger us, or we feel unhappy about our financial circumstances. Perhaps we are pressed to compromise our values by situations at work. These are the burdens and distractions that weigh us down and keep our eyes fixed on our problems and not on Jesus. If we continue to do this, our problems can even lead us to sinful ways of dealing with them — overeating, outbursts of anger, even marital infidelity.
If it seems impossible, remember that Jesus not only gives us faith, he perfects it as well. So it doesn’t all depend on you! Yes, you have battles to fight. But remember that Christ is in you. Remember that he has grace stored up just for you, grace that will help you in every situation you have to face. Christian perseverance is not a matter of struggling along by ourselves and hoping we make it. It is a matter of abiding in Christ and letting him fight alongside you. It is a matter of joining with other Christian men and letting him fight alongside you. It is a matter of persevering in prayer.
And most importantly, it is a matter of pressing on with our eyes fixed on obtaining the highest and most glorious crown possible— eternal life with Jesus Christ himself! Then one day we too can say these words of St. Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
“Lord, you know my strengths and weaknesses. You also know that I desire to be with you now and for all eternity. Come, Jesus, and fill me with your strength and your courage. Lord, I want to persevere in running and finishing the race with you!”
Maurice Blumberg was the founding Executive Director of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men (http://www.catholicmensresources.org/ ), and is currently a Trustee. He is also the Director of Partner Relations for Partners in Evangelism, (http://www2.wau.org/partners/ ), a Ministry to Servicemen and Prisoners for The Word Among Us (http://www.wau.org/ ).
[Many thanks to The Word Among Us for allowing us to adapt material from daily meditations in their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.]
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
Reflect on the Scriptures at the beginning of the article. How important is it to you to “persevere in running the race that lies before us”?
How good are you at “keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith” when you are responding to difficult problems, temptations, and challenges? What are some steps you can take to improve how you respond?
How important is it to you to say at the end of your life these words of St. Paul given at the end of the article? “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
If you are in a men’s group, end your meeting by praying that each of you would be able to persevere in running and finishing your “race”. Use the prayer at end of the article as the starting point.