“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:1-2 ESV)
At the beginning of the year, we often feel the need to embark on some great project of self-improvement. When our calendars change over to January 1, we act like our whole year depends on how much we accomplish that first week. For many, it’s become a week of creating impossible standards. We’re so energetic after a festive season of celebration that we run as fast as we can after as many goals as possible. Many of us know from experience that this only leads to burnout, failure, and disappointment. Our inability to maintain such a frenetic pace causes us to abandon all of our efforts and return to our previous behaviors.
A lot of this pressure comes from our online culture. It shows us snippets of others’ lives that are seemingly perfect, people who appear easily able to continue an all-out blitz on their goals indefinitely. However, individual variables such as jobs, children, health issues, economic barriers, and so on aren’t factored into the equation. Social media ads are idealized representations designed to make us feel bad or guilty enough to purchase what they’re peddling. What if we chose to turn away from all of the empty promises offered to us? What if, instead, we looked to Jesus to show us what an abundant life truly looks like?
The verse in Hebrews reminds us that we need endurance to fulfill our God-given purposes. We’re not participating in a sprint, but a marathon. Success doesn’t come quickly, but through regular, faithful work. Jesus utilized tools to complete his specific journey. Three of them were prayer, community, and focus. We can also use these tools to run our race well.
Jesus showed us the importance of prayer. In the Bible, we read multiple accounts of Jesus going off alone to pray and be ministered to by God. We don’t know exactly what he prayed, but we can guess it involved asking for God’s help in fulfilling his plans. He probably asked God for eyes to see and ears to hear those who would cross his path. Maybe he was assured by God of who he was: loved, accepted, worthy, and purposed. Perhaps he also reminded himself of who God is: faithful, trustworthy, present, and in control. Let’s make prayer a priority as we seek to run with endurance.
Read the rest over at The Glorious Table.