12 Apr The Finish Line is Not the Goal
After weeks of mayhem, upsets and buzzer beaters, March Madness is officially over and April is in full swing. It’s the time of year when the temperatures climb, the flowers start blooming, and the end-of-semester chaos ensues. The sun is out and the days are getting longer. And so are your to-do lists.
Suddenly, assignments that once seemed so far away have snuck up on you – and you don’t feel prepared at all. Somehow, your finals feel dangerously close and your last day of class feels eternities away all at the same time. And as if the pressures of academics weren’t enough, the ministry you enjoyed and the relationships you felt encouraged in throughout the year have become tedious and harder to see fruit and purpose in. You’re struggling to make the time to be with God, and when you do crack open your bible and sit down to pray, you’re finding it difficult to get anything out of it. You’re worn out, and you’re thirsty, but you’re just trying to stay afloat and make it through to the end of the semester – when you’ll have “more time.”
If you’re like me, it’s incredibly easy to let all of your responsibilities pile up on top of each other and blind you from seeing anything outside of them. All of a sudden, your life becomes consumed with just getting through the next assignment, the next meeting, the next final. You might be killing yourself and doing whatever it takes to get through to the end, or you might be cruising and just trying to do the bare minimum to scrape by. Either way, your eyes are fixed on a finish line, and everything you are doing is driven by the goal of just getting there. But what if the goal isn’t the finish line?
“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 set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated on the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not weary or fainthearted.”
This probably isn’t the passage your sleep-deprived, overwhelmed soul wanted to read. You might have seen the word “run” and wondered how on earth you could run any harder than you already are. Or you might have scoffed at the idea of doing anything more than just crawling and coasting at this point.
But to set your eyes on “run” in Hebrews 12 is to miss the point of the passage. The author of Hebrews spent the previous chapter telling story after story of God’s followers who endured trials along the path of obedience through faith. In faith, they pressed on, trusting the promise of God that something greater was to come.
Where these famous followers endured by faith in what was unseen, we can now endure by faith in what has been seen – Jesus. He is the “something better” that the author refers to in Hebrews 11:40. He is the one who ran the race of the Christian life perfectly, the one who endured the cross in our place. He is the one who is no longer running but is seated at the right hand of God. He is the one who ran with endurance, and who now gives us the strength to run ourselves.
Hebrews 12 opens with therefore, showing us that before the author makes any call to run, he calls us to have faith. Just like these great men and women of faith, our strength to run will not be found in ourselves, but in Jesus Christ. He is the founder of our faith, he is the perfecter of our faith, and he is the goal of our race, not the finish line at the end of this semester.
So today, whether you feel like you’re sprinting or crawling to the end of this semester, don’t fix your eyes on the line. Fix them on Jesus. When you need the strength to finish that last paper, look to Jesus. When you need the courage to share the gospel one more time with your lost friend, look to Jesus. When you need the discipline to wake up early to read your bible, look to Jesus. When your heart is overwhelmed and your energy is fading, look to Jesus. Run with faithful endurance and obedience to him and all that he calls you to do. Make the best use of your time as you finish out this semester, knowing that none of your labor for the kingdom of God is in vain, knowing that your King Jesus is worthy, and knowing that he is strong when you are weak.