“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
The writer of Hebrews gives to us the three keys to making it across the finish line of 2017 in a way that brings glory to God and good to others, including ourselves. Let’s take a brief look.
- Throw off everything that hinders
Take a moment to reflect upon 2016. The start of a New Year is a wonderful time to take inventory of the past year. As we do, we inevitably find some things we need to add to our lives and some things we need to eliminate from our lives. What are some of the things that hindered you last year from doing all that God was calling you to do and being all that God was calling you to be?
- Leaning more on your own understanding rather than God’s
- Clinging to your comfort zone
- Refusing to risk for your Redeemer
- Professional and personal priorities out of balance
- Too much month left at the end of the money
- Neglecting to take care of your health
- Refusing to forgive someone who has hurt you
- Fearful of a making a new decision about a new direction
- Doubtful of reaching your desired destination
To be sure, the past is littered with mistakes and missteps. The key is to treat the past as a school. God wants you to learn from your past, not live in your past. Remember what the prophet Isaiah said, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing” (Isaiah 43:18-19).
- Run your race
The writer of Hebrews says there is a race marked out for each one of us. The key is to run our race and not someone else’s race. God has marked out the perfect race for your imperfect life. He has considered your talents and abilities . . . your personality and your personal experiences . . .your desires and your disposition . . . and has called you to the race He wants you to run. Instead of asking, “What race do I want to run this year?” ask, “What race does God want me to run for His glory?”
- Fix your eyes on Jesus
Make no mistake, it is virtually impossible to make any measurable forward progress when we have our eyes fixed on others running their race. Jesus is our North Star. We are to keep our focus on him and his faithfulness to us. Jesus ran his race perfectly all the way to the cross, never once wavering along the way. The more we focus on Jesus, the better we will run and ultimately finish our race.
In closing, let me encourage you with the promise of the “great cloud of witnesses” that surrounds you supernaturally. These are the saints that have gone into glory before us. They have already run their race with perseverance and crossed the finish line in victory. So the race can be won and has been won by countless who have gone before you. Now it is important to keep in view they ran their race imperfectly. Yet, every time they fell down, they picked themselves back up and continued on to the finish line. Now this was only possible because they ran not in their own strength, but in the strength of their Savior. That is what empowered them to keep getting up every time they fell down.
You do remember the catastrophic collapse of Peter denying his Lord on the night he was betrayed don’t you? Peter’s example of getting back up is designed to empower us to keep getting back up and continue running all the way to the finish line. As it has been said, “Fall seven times, get up eight!”
Remember, the most important race is the race of life. Live it for Jesus and you are a winner every step of the way. May God bless you throughout 2017 as you run your race for your Redeemer.
This is the gospel. This is grace for your race. Never forget that . . . AMEN!
Tommy Boland is senior pastor of Cross Community Church in Deerfield Beach. He blogs regularly at tommyboland.com.