“Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes upon Jesus, the author & perfecter of our faith….” Hebrews 12:1b-2a (NIV)
When I first began following Christ, I mistakenly internalized this passage to mean “run your race with perfection ….” Of course, this interpretation led to frustration & agony on several levels. But, of course, that is not what the author intended. He intended to encourage us to run our race with perseverance & endurance. As I’ve aged in my walk with Christ, the distinction has has become poignantly more clear and has several important implications to me, including:
1) I will struggle and stumble, sometimes I might want to quit, and I will fall down from time to time. Running with perseverance doesn’t mean running with perfection. It means getting back up when I fall down and never giving up. It means keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus while I am running and even when I stumble. He is my motivation when I run, and He is my motivation to get back up again.
2) Running with perseverance & endurance implies it’s going to be a long race. Not a sprint; more like a marathon. And marathon runners will tell you, one of the keys to running such long distances is to stay relaxed. Relax your hands, your arms, your face — relaxing everything except the legs. And it takes thought and intentionality to stay relaxed during a long race. It’s unnatural. We want to push and drive and strain ahead on our own energy. But we won’t make it that way. Long distance runners have to train to stay relaxed. And so we, in our spiritual race, have to learn to stay surrendered. We have to seek to keep our hearts softened and surrendered to Jesus. It is not natural. We have to be intentional about it, but it’s the only way we will finish the race He has set before us.