The writer of the book of Hebrews presented what we call “faith’s hall of fame” in chapter eleven. All these individuals and groups mentioned in that hall of fame were commended for the faith in God that brought about their unswerving loyalty and obedience to that which He had commanded. Though our Bibles have a division that the original text did not have, the first few verses of chapter twelve is a continuation of the thought presented in chapter eleven. The writer continues, “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” (Heb. 12:1). In this article we wish to consider a few things about the running of the race for eternal life.
First of all we must realize that there are many that are not even in the race. In other words, they are not running at all. They are putting forth no effort to obtain an eternal home in heaven. It may be in some cases that they are not running in the race because they do not realize the need to run. The fact is, every one is in need of salvation. Many are the passages of scripture that show us that sin separates us from God, with the end result being eternal damnation. Ezekiel wrote, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die…” (Ezek. 18:20). Isaiah said that it is our sins and our iniquities that separate us from God (Isa. 59:1-2). And of course, the apostle Paul tells us that, “…the wages of sin is death…” (Rom. 6:23). Add to that the fact that we cannot devise our own manner of being saved from those sins. Jeremiah wrote, “…it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23), and Solomon the wise stated, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12). However, God desires man to be saved. Ezekiel wrote, “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” (Ezek. 33:11). The apostle Peter wrote, saying the Lord “…is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (II Pet. 3:9), and the apostle Paul told Titus that, “…the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11). Because of this desire of God for man to be saved, God has provided a means of salvation for him. It has been made possible through the death of the Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Peter wrote, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (I Pet. 1:18-19). However, it is then man’s responsibility to take advantage of the offer by way of obedience to the gospel of Christ. The Hebrew writer stated, “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Heb. 5:8-9). In the last day, we will be judged by what we have done in this life as it is compared to what the Lord has commanded (John 12:48; Rom. 2:16; II Cor. 5:10).
However, there are many who are running, but they are somehow running in the wrong race or at the least trying to run God’s race by some other set of rules. As Paul stated, “…if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully” (II Tim. 2:5). Some are running under the burden of a false religious doctrine. Jeremiah said, “For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:13). Jesus said, “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:9). Far too many balk at the instructions of God and cling to mere words of man that is soothing to their ears. Paul told Timothy, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (II Tim. 4:3-4). Many others are running the race of materialism rather than the race for eternal life. For far too many, the things of this earth hold a much higher priority of life to them than does the obtaining and taking heed to the word of the Lord. However, as Paul said, “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (I Tim. 6:7). Jesus tells us, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal” (Matt. 6:19-20). After all, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36-37). Our eternal life and happiness is all dependant upon running the race of life.
Robert Oliver is pastor of The Church of Christ and a long-time columnist for The Sampson Independent. Send any questions or comments to: [email protected]