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Running the Race, Part 3

by Gil Rugh

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2)

At the end of Hebrews 12:1 we are told to “run with endurance the race set before us. I want to consider two aspects of this instruction. First is the idea of endurance. The Greek word that is translated “race” in this verse is agona. You get the idea of the word from the English transliteration – “agony.” Agona was used of athletic events because they could be agonizing, they were demanding, and they could drain you. That’s the way the word came to be used.

The word translated “endurance” is a compound word that means to “remain under.” In this “race” we are under pressure so if we are going to finish well, we must have endurance. This is a key word in this section of Hebrews, it is not used broadly in Hebrews, but in chapters 10-12 some form of the word “endure” is used eight times.

A key verse on endurance in this passage is Hebrews 10:35-36: “Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” We are sure of what God has promised us at the end of the “race” so don’t give up before the end.

A second point made at the end of verse 1 is that this race “is set before us.” The expression we have translated, “that is set before us,” was used in the Greek races of the course set by the master of the race, as they would refer to him. And the point being made here is that God is the Master who has set the course for us. We are not all running the same course. What God brings into my life will not be the same as what He is bringing into your life; the circumstances our church faces are not the same as what another church would face. I have to run the race that He has set before me. Isn’t that part of my faith? Things aren’t out of control. God has set the course for me. God has set the course for our church. Now we must by faith run with endurance the race that He has set before us.

Paul provides an example of running the race set before him. In 2 Corinthians 12 he says that he implored the Lord to remove a thorn in his flesh that was tormenting him. The reply he received from the Lord was “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Paul’s response was that he was content to deal with whatever obstacles came into his life to manifest the power of God. Like Paul, we can magnify the power and grace of God as we run this race with endurance putting our faith in the almighty God who has set the course of our lives according to His wise plan.