Scripture passage:Hebrews 12:1-3
Focus passage: Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 1Corinthians 9:24-25 NIV
My husband ran in 5k and 10ks. When I first met him, he was training for the Crim in Flint, Michigan. In one of the races he ran, there was a hill on the course that really challenged him. What bothered him most about this hill were two women, one he described as 20 months pregnant, who passed him chattering away as he chugged up the hill. All had trained, but it was harder for some than others.
Living the Christian life is very much like that race. The writer of Hebrews used running a race as an analogy for the Christian life. At that time, they were enduring some harsh persecution, even death, for their faith. They were Jews who converted to Christianity, but the pressure on them was enormous, so they wanted to revert back to Judaism. Many were in hiding, gathering in catacombs and other strange places for church. They were encouraged to not bog themselves down with sinful living nor the old law, which would only cause them to fall off the course. Since Jesus endured many hardships and scorning, they could handle staying on course by keeping their eyes focused on Jesus.
Christians are under persecution today. Some, like us in the U.S., endure social persecution for our faith. We are shamed, trolled, and mocked for standing firm with what we believe. Workplaces insist that their employees not only keep their religious views to themselves at work, but are extending these mandates into their personal lives. It is as if employees, hourly and salaried alike, are indentured servants of companies. One misstep could cause a brother or sister in Christ to lose their job and risk losing a career. One salaried manager told me the human resources set policies about so-called “Hot Topics” was causing difficulty because the issues went against the Bible very clearly. This policy was also for this manager’s personal life because they were seen as “On Duty 24/7". Slavery is alive and well in the workplace.
Many Christians in other parts of the world are suffering like the readers of Hebrews to whom the original letter was written. A missionary , Pastor Tom Randall, came state-side a couple of years ago. After he returned, some of the staff of his mission in the Phillipines were accused of inappropriate contact with the children and sex trafficking at the orphanage. He was imprisoned when he went back to the mission. While in prison, he suffered beatings and became very ill due to a health condition that was aggravated in the environment. At one point, he thought he would die. He continued teaching a Bible study in the cell he shared with several other men. As the courts there discovered, the allegations by two of the girls were false, meant by some local people to cause problems for the mission. The confessions of those who made the accusations set him free. Unfortunately, the children from this mission were scattered out, several being abused in their new setting. The missionary, his wife, and staff were able to gather most of them up and take them back to the safety of the mission. Headlines in the news of the persecution and martyrdom of Christians concern all of us. This is not an easy time to live out our faith. See article on Church and Ministry and video from Christ Community Chapel. I was in the congregation when Pastor Joe told shared the update.There was not a dry eye in the audience.
It is so important to stay grounded in our faith by spending regular time studying our Bibles and having our alone time with God. We must remain disciplined in our faith to avoid being held back, much like an Olympic runner disciplines himself or herself through proper training to endure a long, grueling race. For some of us, it will be easier than for others. Jesus never promised us living the Christian life would be easy nor did He say it would be the same for all of us. But He did promise to go through it with us (Matthew 28:19-20). If He could endure so much for us, we can endure much for Him. There are eternal rewards waiting for those of us who “run in such a way to get the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24).
May God bless you.