Don’t Quit! Run to Win! (Hebrews 12:1-3)

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Read: Hebrews 11:32–13:3

My neighbor Ron, about 67, is training for a 25-mile marathon race. Runners like him enjoy the euphoria that comes when the endorphins pour into their blood and give them an emotional and physical high. So I decided to try it.

Shall I describe the results—my excruciating pain in the right side, my laboring lungs and wildly pounding heart, or my fear that I was on the verge of a heart-attack? Frankly, I became an unashamed quitter. I will walk, thank you! Besides, I have scientific data that proves walking is every bit as good for physical exercise and is much less damaging to the joints. But there is one race we must never quit. This is the Christian race.

There is one race we must never quit—the Christian race.

We start it by repenting of our sins and placing our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. We run it by keeping our faith in Him and obeying all that God teaches from His Word and by His Spirit. We will not finish it until we step into heaven.

Do you want to know how to stay in the Christian race and not be a quitter? Our scripture gives the answer, for it tells how to run with endurance. If we follow these instructions, we will not only run well, but we will also finish well.

If We Are to Run the Christian Race With Endurance and Finish Well, We Will Need Encouragement

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses…” (Heb. 12:1a).

Some of the Hebrew Christians were being tempted to drop out of the Christian race. They needed encouragement to persevere. So the writer tells them to consider the lives of saints who have successfully finished their race.

The people listed in Hebrews 11 serve as “a great cloud of witnesses” that testify of three truths that give us encouragement.

They faithfully persevered and finished their race, and we also can finish ours

As you read this list, remember that these people were faithful to run the race, though sometimes they did not run perfectly, because they lacked much of the information given later in the New Testament. They faced many hardships, but they did not quit until the race was finished. Many endured ridicule, misunderstanding, and suffering.

God called some of them to leave their families and make their homes in foreign lands. Some gave their lives for the cause of Christ. If these could faithfully run their race and finish successfully, by God’s grace so can we!

They received God’s praise for finishing the race, and so will we if we finish ours

Many of these did not receive much praise from their friends or family, but they all received God’s praise when they had finished. Not only did God commend them (Heb. 11:39), but He tells us that the world was not worthy of them (Heb. 11:38).

This should give us encouragement to keep running for the Lord, for when our race is over, we shall receive His praise for persevering.

They reassure us that God, who was totally reliable for them, will be the same for us

For most of the courageous men and women listed in chapter eleven, there was no visible reward here for living a life of faith. But they dared to trust God, and in trusting Him, they found Him to be totally reliable. He provided them grace to endure to the end.

If God honored their faith, sustained them, blessed them, and got glory from their lives, He will do the same in your life and mine! Hebrews 13:5 says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you!” For your encouragement, read about the godly men and women who have won the race. If you are having family problems, read about Joseph (Gen. 37-50).

If you think your job is too big for you, study the life of Moses (Exodus 3-12, 18). If you are tempted to retaliate because of unfair treatment, see how David handled this problem (1 Sam. 17-24).

If you want to grow in faith and perseverance, hang around men and women who have a passion for God. Choose as your friends people who are deeply in love with Jesus and are faithfully running the Christian race.

If We are to Run the Christian Race With Endurance and Finish Well, We Must Eliminate Everything that Would Hinder Us

“…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us.” (Heb. 12:1b)

We must not let anything distract us from successfully completing the race. The writer warns of two problem areas and urges us to “lay aside” (literally, “take off”) these hindrances.

We are to strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress.

We must get rid of excess weight

“Weight” refers to anything that hinders our walk with God. It speaks of things that may be innocent but still slow us down. It could be simply that life is so full that we don’t really have time or energy to pursue godly activities.

We must purposely get rid of things that weigh us down, rob us of time with God, and diminish our passion for Christ. What “weights” have been slowing you down in your Christian walk? Purpose to lay them aside.

We must deal decisively with besetting sin

This verse refers to that particular sin which trips you up. You know where you are weak. There are some sins that do not tempt you at all, but there are others that do so continually. Whatever that sin is, it must be stripped off and avoided at all costs, or it will entangle you, trip you, and prevent you from finishing your race!

There are some sins that do not tempt you at all, but there are others that do so continually.

Do you believe that God can give you total victory over your besetting sin, or have you believed the devil’s lie: “You’ll never be able to have consistent victory over this temptation!”

  • Remove from your life anything that makes it easy for you to fall into temptation (Rom. 13:14).
  • Confess your weakness to a mature believer and make yourself regularly accountable to him (Heb. 12:12-13).
  • Claim God’s promise that His grace is sufficient for you and His strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).
  • Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil, and through Him we can be more than conquerors (1 John 3:8; Rom 8:37).

Ask yourself this question, “In order to finish well, of what do I need to let go?” What has God brought to your attention that you must get rid of in order to finish well?

If We are to Run the Christian Race with Endurance and Finish Well, We Must Keep Our Eyes on Jesus

“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds” (Heb. 12:2–3).

Our coach in the Christian race is Jesus, the originator and finisher of our faith. He is our best example of how to run to win. We are commanded to do two things:

We must keep our focus on Christ (12:2)

The Greek word translated “looking unto” literally means “to look away from everything else and looking at.” It stresses the fact that we are to avoid focusing on the circumstances and problems around us and to fix our gaze on Christ alone.

Peter vividly illustrates this in his encounter with Christ on the Sea of Galilee (Matt. 14:22-31). He began to sink when he took his eyes off Jesus and looked at the waves around him. So we also falter when we take our eyes off Christ. What was the secret of Jesus’ victory? How could He keep on running with all the problems He faced? He carefully

  1. endured the cross and
  2. “thought little of” the shame, because He focused on the prize to be won “for the joy set before Him.”

Motivation to deny self and complete the race was based on His confidence in God’s promises. Christ kept His eyes on the goal, and that is what gave Him strength and courage to endure suffering. For us Christ is both our coach and our goal, our focus and our reward.

We look to His life for encouragement and thrill with the knowledge that our perseverance will end with an eternity in His presence, sharing His throne and reigning with Him (Rev. 3:21).

We must never forget His Suffering (12:3)

Are you feeling weary in the race? Are you beginning to lose heart and despair? The writer urges you to find strength and encouragement by considering the suffering of Jesus Christ, your supreme example.

Think of the hostility He faced, the rejection He felt, the humiliation He suffered, and the physical mistreatment He endured. He was misunderstood and forsaken by His closest friends and belittled by His own family. If Christ could win the race, so can you!

You Too Can Finish Well

How is your race progressing? Do you need encouragement? Are you running with endurance? Let me challenge you to get your eyes on Jesus. Stop looking at the other runners or at the circumstances through which you are running.

Look to Him, get rid of those weights, strip off your besetting sin, and determine to run with patience the Christian race that is set before you. With God’s grace, you too can finish well!


Originally published in the Ministry Library of God’s Bible School & College.

Allan Brown
Allan Brown
Dr. Allan Brown is Professor and Chair of the Division of Ministerial Education at God's Bible School & College. He holds his PhD in Old Testament Interpretation from Bob Jones University and is the author of several books and articles.
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