“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” (from Hebrews 12:1-2)
To try and stay in shape, these days, I have taken up bike-riding. This is normally a fairly moderate activity (good for us folks that are quickly developing that “look of wisdom”). But in the area where I live, riding a bike is anything but moderate. I have to traverse steep (and lengthy) hills and some fairly sharp turns in the roadways. But I enjoy the challenge (and the speed, when going down those monster hills).
But I didn’t always enjoy every moment of my rides. When I first began riding, I would enter those sharp turns and find myself in a full-blown panic as I was trying (with all my might) to keep myself out of the ditch. I was NOT very successful – in spite of my best efforts (Luckily… I ended up with only a few scrapes and bruises).
But then, I was listening to someone talking about learning to snow-ski and discovered my problem… and the solution – all in the same advice.
Beginning snow-skiers are prone to running into trees and fences and big rocks (etc.) for the same reason I kept running into ditches.
The problem for anyone moving at a reasonably quick rate of speed is a matter of focus. The key is NOT to look where you are going – but to look where you want to go… and (like magic) your body takes you there.
It’s amazing how easy it is to avoid ditches when you are NOT focusing on avoiding ditches! If you keep your eyes focused on a point around the corner (where you WANT to go) – you will find yourself going there… every time.
The more I think about it… this is exactly the advice behind our verse for the day. Life is like a race (in this case, let’s say a bike race).
As most of us can verify, life’s race is seldom (if ever) a straight and easy course. There are obstacles, there are sharp turns, there are huge hills to navigate. And if we are not very careful, we will spend all our time focused on the obstacles, turns, hardships, and pitfalls that are a substantial part of life’s race. We will become consumed with where we are, what we are currently going through, and the obstacles that threaten us harm. Our eyes will foretell our doom – and we find ourselves self-fulfilling what we see.
From our verse, it would be easy to conclude that we just need to keep our eyes on Jesus, Who waits for us at the finish line of our life’s race. This may have some application. But it is NOT the main point of the inspired writer.
The context of the verse reveals that what we are really being encouraged to do is to SEE Jesus as the Model of how we should approach our life’s race. Jesus’ race was to go to the cross and suffer for every one of us – a task that Jesus could “see” and actually desired to avoid (“If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me!”).
The only way He could possibly endure what He was going to face was to keep His eyes focused on “the joy set before Him.” (12:2)
Through every slash of the whip on His back. Through every faltering step carrying the cross to Golgotha. Through the piercing of the crown of thorns and every nail through His hands and feet. Through the humiliation of being stripped naked and hung on a cross. Through all the mocking and jeering of the crowd. Through every torturous breath as His body slowly waned into the grasp of death – Jesus kept His focus NOT on what was around Him, and NOT on what He was going through. Jesus kept His focus on what was ahead of Him… on US – the very people He was dying to save.
Life is always a matter of focus. Either on what we are going through – or on our ability to see the outcome in the midst of our difficulties. Through Jesus, we can now have confidence in the midst of every challenging thing we may face.