If you have accepted Christ, do you remember the moment that you accepted Him as your Lord and Savior? For me, I remember sitting in Children’s Church, at Lackland Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas. I was about 8 years old and to this day I cannot tell you what the message was that was being preached. I do clearly remember the altar call. When the Preacher asked if we wanted to accept Christ I was engulfed in a distinctly warm and loving feeling. I shot up out of my chair and ran forward. It was the best day of my life.
Over the next twenty years I allowed the pressures of life and sin to entangle me. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the Lord and was thankful for my salvation but I wasn’t always living a life that would demonstrate I was a follower of Christ. There were times that I was so deep in sin I didn’t think I would be able get out of it. I was so twisted up in the circumstances that I was certain I was doomed. It was only when I was at my lowest points that I would cry out to Jesus. Slowly but surely I worked my way out of the pit I dug for myself. And boy, oh boy, could I create some pretty sticky, deep and horrible pits. We can all relate, I am sure, that we can make a pretty good mess of our lives. Once I found myself on the outside of that pit I felt lighter and freer. It was only then that I could live and move forward in life.
I really began to understand this concept when I became a runner in my early 20s. The process of training to get physically fit was very similar to the process of becoming spiritually fit. When I was a runner getting physically fit was tough and I know many of you can relate with what I am about to say.
When you first start running you feel like a big lump—it feels like you are moving in extra slow speed—like you are in a slow-motion video. More than likely you are carrying some extra weight that slows you down and holds you back. You are weighed down and contemplating if the pain of getting fit is even worth it. However, the more you run, the easier it is to run longer, faster, harder and with determination.
When you run a race you set your eyes on the finish line. You look for it; you anticipate the elated feeling of accomplishment. When the finish line comes into view you pick up your pace, your stride is longer, your feet feel lighter, your breathing seems to be steadier, and even the wind feels cooler. It is almost as if you are running on air. The finish line is there—right in sight—and the closer you get the more euphoric you begin to feel. Then—as you cross the finish line you stand taller and you’ve all but forgotten the first few miles of the race where you were questioning if you could do it. You realize you have done it.
That initial feeling when you start training is the very same feeling that you have when you get entangled in sin and are trying to work your way out of the situation you got yourself in. At first, you believe this is too hard and don’t think you can do it, but step by step, moment by moment, you begin to fix your eyes on Jesus. He is the finish line in the victory over your sin. You begin to realize that He already conquered sin and death. He’s the author and perfecter of your faith. He was the trailblazer in the victory over sin and He brought that victory to completion on the cross. His action on the cross is what gives us hope and faith that we can have victory over the sin in our life.
His race was the race to the cross. He ran the race, and His finish line was our salvation. He ran the race knowing that He would have to endure the pain. Knowing He would have to bear all of my shame, your shame, the shame of the world. He knew, and like all of us who have trained to run a race, there was a lot of pain involved and He kept running to the cross.
Some of us quit along the race, we fall and sometimes we don’t get back up. We think “what’s the purpose of finishing—does it even matter?” Our problem is that we lost sight of the finish line. But not Jesus; He saw the finish line and He picked up His pace. The thought of what He was about to endure was not a concern because He knew what lay beyond the momentary pain. He kept His eyes fixed on the finish line and said, “Yes, it is worth it! Treena is worth it, you are worth it, and humanity is worth it.” And with His eyes firmly fixed on the finish line—the cross—He finished the race!
He won! He finished strong, over came sin and death and then sat down at the right hand of God. He is now asking us to get fit, take off all the extra weight, and train to finish the race strong. He wants us to pick up our pace, lay aside all the things that keep us weighed down and separate us from Him.
Imagine Jesus at the finish line of your race—He is cheering you on. Imagine Him saying, “Come on, you got this!” “Keep your eyes on me, look at me, you can make it. Just a little push more and you are home free!” What an awesome picture! Sometimes we quit just before the breakthrough but He is urgently asking you to fix our eyes on Him. He is insisting that we not give up or give in to the sin in our lives. He is asking us to have the courage to keep going and not lose heart in the middle of the race. I can almost hear Him saying, “Just a little more, please look at me, you are almost there.” Wow!
When you find yourself weighed down, remember to look up from what is holding you down and fix your eyes on Jesus. He will coach you to the finish line; stay focused on Him.
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12: 1-3 (NASB)