I ran my third road race yesterday since tying on the old running shoes again and heading to the roads, and for the most part it was a great race. Good atmosphere, tons of people, tough course. But I made the same tragic mistake I have made the last two races I have been in… I started too far back in the pack. The faster runners usually head to the front, and the middle runners are in the middle, and the slower runners/walkers are in the back.
When I was younger, in high school and college… I never hesitated to start up front. I knew I was fast, and I had proof. I was on the top cross country team in the state heading to college to run there. Now, it’s different. Each race I set a goal and I tell myself to start toward the front, but each time I get in the pack and start to question my abilities. As a result I spend the first 1/4-1/2 mile struggling to get around much slower people… sprinting, stopping, starting, dodging, weaving… and overall my time is slower than it should I am capable of.
There are two problems here: One with the people around me, the other with me. I start the race and people block the way. They may be starting too far up in the pack, thinking they are better runners than they are. On the other hand I do not have the confidence to start with people that may be better than I am. Even though I know I will run faster, better, and stronger, if I am not held back.
Spiritually, we tend to do the same sorts of things. We allow people who are not even running the race to stand in front of us and block us from where God wants to go. We allow work, our children, unbelieving friends and family to dictate how we will grow spiritually instead of running the race God has given us.
Hebrews 12:1 says, “Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangels, and let us run with perserverance the race marked out for us.”
This verse is packed with stuff but two things are important. Who do we run with? Hebrews says we are surrounded by witnesses to Jesus Christ. To run strong this faith race, we must run with strong runners and not get behind people that will hold us back.
The second thing is that we must throw off everything that hinders. What does that include? Well… everything. If something is holding you back from growing in Christ, or running the race God has for you, you must throw it off. Here the writer says specifically sin, but that is an example of something that can hold you back. He says “and the sin” that means there must be things that aren’t sin that can hold us back too. This is harsh but true. Our spouses can do a alot to help us run the race of faith, and they can do alot to hinder us in the race. My wife has always been such a great helper in my spiritual run. She challenges me to fight the good fight and keeps me commited to God’s Word and work. As much as my spouse has been a help to me, I know others are not so blessed. That doesn’t mean you cast them aside, but we have to make it clear to those we love the most that our relationships with Jesus Christ trumps even our relationships with our husbands and wives. This same principle extends to our children, our past times, our jobs, everything.
So, are you starting too far back in the pack of your faith race? Move forward.