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The Race Set before Us

The Race Set before Us

The race that is set before us (Heb 12:1), brought to our attention by the author of Hebrews, is a race which every Christian must partake in. It is a typological allusion to the spiritual journey of a Christian from the hopelessness of his past, through the hope of the present, to the attainment of everlasting life in the future.

The apostle Paul exhorts us that, to succeed in this race we must run in such a way as to win (I Cor 9:24).  But just as an athlete, to win the prize we must compete "according to the rules" (II Tim 2:5) or be disqualified otherwise.

The rules for this race set before us are:

1.       Do not look behind

When Lot hesitated to depart from Sodom, the two angels seized his hand, his wife's and his daughters' and brought them out of the city saying, "Escape for your life!  Do not look behind you, and do not stay anywhere in the valley; escape to the mountains, lest you be swept away" (Gen 19:16,17).  The escape from Sodom to the mountains symbolizes a Christian's spiritual progress from condemnation in sins to salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus.  No one should look back to the former manner of life and the old self, which is corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit. The new self created in righteousness and holiness of the truth in the likeness of God should be put on instead (Eph 4:22-24).  The Lord Jesus had said, "No one, after putting his hand to the plough and is fit for the kingdom of God" (Lk 9:62).  An athlete who keeps looking back will lose his pace and may not succeed in the race.  Let us then emulate Paul's principle of "forgetting what was behind and reaching forward to what is ahead... toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil 3:13,14).

2.      Do not carry a heavy burden

In order to run well we, must lay aside every encumbrance and sin which so easily entangle and burden us (Heb 12:1).  No athlete can win a race with heavy burdens on his shoulders.  "Encumbrance" refers among others to the "worries and riches and pleasures of this life" which will choke our spiritual growth (Lk 8:14); it is the "sorrow of the world (which) produces death" (II Cor 7:10).

All who are weary and heavy-laden should come to the Lord Jesus to find rest for the soul (Mt 11:28, 29).  As Paul had said: "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God" (Phil 4:6) and "No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier" (II Tim 2:4).

This most heavy burden of sin, the wage of which is death (Rom 6:23), must be removed before a person can partake in the spiritual race.  After- sins have been remitted through baptism in the Name of Jesus (Acts 2:38, 22:16), sin must not reign in the mortal body.  It should no longer bean instrument o f unrighteousness; but an instrument of righteousness presented to God (Rom 6:12, 13).  The consequences of sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth are terrifying (Heb 10:26-27, 6:4-6; II Pet 2:20-22).

3.      To run with endurance

The writer of the Book of Hebrews said, "Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us".  The journey of a Christian from condemnation to salvation may be figuratively presented as a spiritual long-distance race.  "Endurance" connotes the prerequisites of determination and perseverance without which no athlete can complete a long distance race.  The Lord Jesus emphasized the importance of endurance when he said, "But the one who endures to the end, it is he who shall be saved" (Mt 24:13).  Elder James had referred us to the example of suffering and patience of the prophets and we take comfort in his words "Behold, we count those blessed who endured.  You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord's dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful" (Jas 5:10,11).

Perseverance is allied inseparably with absolute trust and faith in the Lord Jesus without which no one can endure.  Let us rejoice in the declaration of Paul: “Therefore we do not lose heart (viz. we continue to endure), but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.  For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor 4:16-17).

4.       To run in a fixed direction

Even the best athlete will not win a prize if he runs in the wrong direction.  In the spiritual race, only those who run in the direction of Jesus all the time, fixing eyes on Him, the author and perfector of faith, can win (Heb 12:2).  This means that we have to build the foundation of our faith upon the Lord Jesus (I Cor 3:11).  The Lord Jesus is typologically referred to as a "rock" (I Cor 10:4) and if our foundation is built upon Him, our faith will not be shaken (Mt 7:24,2S)

Paul knew very well where he was running to - "the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil 3:13,14).  Paul's reason for not wavering in his faith was that "I know whom I have believed in and I an convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day" (2 Tim 1:12).  As King Solomon, out of the wisdom given to him by God said:

Let your eyes look directly ahead, and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you.  (Prov 4:25)

The name of the Lord is a strong tower. The righteous runs into it and is safe.       (Prov 18:10)

5.       To take part in spiritual training

 a.       Godliness

Paul advised Timothy to discipline himself for the purpose of godliness which is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come (I Tim 4:7, 8).  In the original text, the word "discipline" means “exercise”.  Our spiritual fitness will ensure our success in the race that is set before us.  Godliness means to be as "Christ-like" as possible for we have "put on the now self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth" (Eph 4:24).  Paul further explained that "godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment" (I Tim 6:6).  So let us strive for godliness with contentment in order to become spiritually fit and strong to complete this race.


 b.      Self-control

Paul stated that everyone who completes in the games exercises self-control or temperance, a fruit of the Holy Spirit, in all things (I Cor 9:25; Gal S:23). We have to subdue the sinful desires of our fleshly body because the mind set on the flesh is "death" (Rom 8:6), "hostile toward God" (Rom 8:7) and "cannot please God" (Rom 8:8).  The lack of self-control affects our running in the race because "each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust, which after having conceived gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death" (Jas 1:14, 15).  Therefore Paul says, "I run in such a way, as not without aim... but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified (I Cor 9:26, 27).


6.       To be filled with the Holy Spirit

This is the most important rule of all.  The rebirth of a Christian is effected by the "washing of regeneration (viz. water baptism) and renewing by the Holy Spirit" (Tit 3:5).  After being reborn, all believers partake in the spiritual race to the eternal kingdom of God.  To complete this race, it is crucial for us to rely on the Holy Spirit.  Paul admonished the Christians of Galatia, "Are you so foolish?  Having begun by the spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" (Gal 3:3). We started in this race after being sanctified by the Holy Spirit (Rom IS: 16, II Thes 2:13) and since it is a spiritual race, it is absolutely vital for us to be led by the Holy Spirit.

Paul reminded the Galatian Christians (and us today), "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh" (Gal S:16).  So let us not quench the spirit (I Thes 5:19) so that being led by the spirit of God we may be called sons of God and heirs with Christ" (Rorn 8: 14, 17).  If a person can ultimately become a "fellow-heir with Christ", it means that he has successfully completed the spiritual race.


The prize for completing the race is referred to by Paul as an imperishable wreath (I Cor 9:25), and by Peter as an unfading crown of glory (I Pet 5:4; 1:4). When Paul knew that the time for him to join his Lord was nearing, he said, "I have finished the course (viz. of the spiritual race) ... in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day" (II Tim 4:7,8).

Beloved brethren, our course is still unfinished.  Let us follow the example of Paul's determination and continue to press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil 3:14) so that on that day, we may all be present to receive the unfading crown of glory.

Y, K. Clioo

He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.  Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they  shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (Is 40:29-31)