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 entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. —Hebrews 12:1
Life is a race, but it's not our race.
Bill McCartney (What Makes A Man?) wrote this: “As the head football coach of the University of Colorado Buffaloes, I have an intense desire to beat our arch-rival, Nebraska every time we play them. Unfortunately, when we were facing them in 1991, we had not won when we played in Lincoln for twenty-three years. So, on Thursday night before the Nebraska game on Friday, I had the team together in one room, and I explained to our guys that I had heard somewhere that we spend 86% of our time thinking about ourselves and just 14% thinking about others. I then told them that if you could ever get a guy to stop thinking about himself and start thinking about others, there’s a whole new energy source available to him. With that in mind, I said, ‘Men, I’ve ordered 60 footballs and we’re going to put the final score of Saturday’s game on these balls. On Monday, we’re going to send each ball to a person you’ve designated in advance. Here’s what I’m asking you to do. By midnight tonight, Thursday night, I’m requiring any guy who wants to get on that plane to Nebraska to dedicate this game to somebody other than himself. I want you to call those people and tell them that they ought to watch you on every play. If they can’t be at the game, then tell them to watch it on television. Tell them you are going to show how much you love them, that you’re going to play with all your heart, and you’re playing this game for them. It might be your mom or dad. I want you to call tonight. Then, I want you to demonstrate that love on Saturday.’ Do you remember what happened in that game? The Colorado Buffaloes broke a 23-year losing streak in Lincoln and won that game 27-12.”
When we commit to another person or a cause bigger than ourselves, we live our lives or at least a part of our lives for something other than ourselves. When we commit to a marriage, we are no longer playing for ourselves. When we commit to a family, we are no longer playing for ourselves. When we commit to a church, we are no longer playing for ourselves. If it was our race, we could run for ourselves, but it’s not. To run this race, we must give up ourselves as the focus of our lives.
The race is run on a course, but it’s not a course we designed.
Abraham was given a course in Genesis 12. He asked God, "Where exactly does it lead?" God’s response was direct, "If you get going, you'll find out."
Had I designed the course of my life, it would have been a lot different than the one I’m on. You might ask, “Would the course you designed have had any hills in it?” Certainly. One. But the bus would have taken us to the top of that one big hill and then let us out. My course would have then wound down through beautiful glades and grottos. An air-conditioned refreshment stand would be waiting at every quarter-mile interval, where we could share endless conversations over an iced tea. That’s my course, baby! So why didn’t I get my course? It would have required no faith!
Victory on this course takes faith because we don’t know how it’s laid out. As Christians, we know where we are and we know where we’re going. We just don’t know how to connect those dots. But we are confident that the course designed for us will get us there in style. But it’s not our style. An easy race would not take any perseverance. This one isn’t easy. It involves difficulty.
It's neither our race, nor on a course we’d tend to design, but it’s also not going our direction.
Picture yourself coming out of church next weekend and a group of people are standing in the parking lot, all looking straight up. What do you do? What anyone else would do, you look up to see what they’re looking at! There's more to this passage than simply watching Jesus. Did you catch it? When people say, “I’m going to keep my eyes on Jesus,” we could push back. “That’s not good enough. You must keep your eyes on what Jesus kept His eyes on!” Where did Jesus fix His gaze? What had His undivided attention? The joy which was set before Him. The joy certainly wasn't the cross, He endured that. It wasn't the shame, He scorned that. It was the end. The seat. The rest. The victory.
A commitment to the race means we are focusing on the finish line. As long as you live, you might be winning. But you haven’t won! Not yet.