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.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Heb 12:1–2). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
If you ever want to get some really great insight into that verse, I'd like to recommend taking up long distance running. You'll never read that verse the same way after a season of marathon or even half marathon training. You would think that I'd have beaten this verse to death by now in my own devotional life, but nope. It still keeps popping up, especially on runs that are really hard or awful for some reason or another. I've decided that this is now one of those verses that will join my other favorites on the wall of my mind because I'm constantly coming back to it when stuff gets hard.
Running with endurance means more than just trying not giving up. Running with endurance means that sometimes, trying not to give up isn't enough. Trying not to give up and willing yourself not to give up are subtly different, but the difference between the two can mean saying "Well, I gave it my best shot and didn't quite make it" and breaking the tape at the end of the race.
Running with endurance means more than just finishing. It means finishing well. Sometimes when running a "long race" we fool ourselves into thinking that all God asks it that we get to the end. Sometimes, that's all He expects of us because it's such a hard race, but sometimes we sell ourselves short and come in far slower than we can. It may be harder during the race to run better and faster, but you'll get to sit down sooner.
Running with endurance isn't just about life as a whole. There are little races within the big race that is our life journey. Those little races must be run well too. All the little races are what add up to a great journey in the "long run." The seasons of life we find ourselves traveling through are each their own race. We must run all the races with endurance (the author of Hebrews doesn't say which race, just the one that is before us.)
Running with endurance requires a focal point. When I'm training for a marathon, I keep the finish line of the actual marathon in my mind. I think about all the marathons I'm going to run all around the world. I think about my kids cheering me across the finish line. In Hebrews, we are told to focus on Christ. I get teary thinking about my kids cheering me across the finish line of the Pittsburgh Marathon. It gives me chills and butterflies in my stomach to think about The Messiah Himself cheering me on in my spiritual races!
Running with endurance happens under the eye of witnesses. No matter how one tries to seclude oneself, someone will see. Anyone who has started running as an adult knows how uncomfortable those shaky first runs can be. You never know who might see you out there. The life-race is the same. There are always witnesses of one type or another. Run like the world is watching. Run well and with confidence and grace.
Run with endurance, friends. Run hard, run well and don't forget to walk the water stops (water stops=Sabbath).