“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1)
When God’s chastening is upon the self-willed He weakens their strength in the way they would go. (Ps. 102:23) But there are other times when the Spirit would put His wind in our sails and bring us swiftly to the place appointed for us. The issue at hand is whether God Himself is standing in our way, closing doors that no man can open; or, if we are dragging our feet. The Psalmist understood the importance of running with God. “I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments.” (Ps. 119:60) “I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.” (Psalm 119:32)
The exhortation in Hebrews is to run the race God has set before us. To run toward a goal, we must first understand what that goal is. When Paul knew that God wanted him to go to Jerusalem, he kicked it into high gear: “… For he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost.” (Acts 20:16) Along the way, he met with the resistance of well-meaning friends, but he would not let anyone stop him.
First, there was the tears of the Ephesians elders, knowing what awaited their beloved friend. Paul’s response: “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:24) Then there was the stern warning of the prophet: “And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus. And when he was come unto us, he took Paul’s girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.” (Acts 21:10,11)
How desperate are we to do the will of God – to be in the very center of His plan for us, even when we don’t know all the details?
Like Jesus before him, it was not Paul’s enemies, but his friends who proved to be the biggest hindrance in his going up to Jerusalem. The words of Agabus sent them all into “red-alert” status: “And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem.” (Acts 21:12) But Paul refused to be hindered. “Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 21:13) Only when his friends realized that Paul could not be stopped, did they relent: “And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.” (Acts 21:14)
How desperate are we to do the will of God – to be in the very center of His plan for us, even when we don’t know all the details? “And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there” (Acts 20:22) Running our race with patience means running it with a stubborn determination to reach the destination God has set before us. It also means not letting anyone hinder us.
Paul warned the Galatians about the hindrance to their advancing in God: “Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” (Galatians 5:7-9)
Paul reprimanded the Galatians for being “talked out” of continuing on the path they once knew to be on. Contrary to what they thought, those who came to them from Jerusalem were not helps, but hindrances, to their progress in the knowledge of God.
If we are to finish our course with joy, we must, like Jesus and Paul, set our face steadfastly toward our Jerusalem. We must run with determination the race that has been set before us. Yes, sin can certainly get us off course; but “weights” can also hold us back. We are to lay every weight aside in order to run in the way of God’s choosing toward the destination He has in mind for us.
Get God’s direction. Keep your eyes on the mark. If the Lord slows you down, so be it – learn whatever He would have you learn in the holding pattern you’re in. But don’t let anything or anyone other than Him keep you from moving forward as fast as His Spirit will take you.