Running the Race With Endurance
“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”—HEBREWS 12:1.
1. (a) What is set before us when we make a dedication to Jehovah God? (b) What kind of race must a Christian prepare for?
WHEN we dedicated ourselves to Jehovah through Jesus Christ, God set before us, figuratively speaking, a race. At the end of the race, a prize will be bestowed upon all those who finish successfully. What prize? Everlasting life! To win this magnificent prize, the Christian runner needs to be prepared, not for just a short, fast sprint, but for a long-distance run. So he will need endurance. He will have to endure both the long toil of the race itself and the obstacles that present themselves during the race.
2, 3. (a) What will help us in running the Christian race to the finish? (b) How did joy help Jesus run the race with endurance?
2 What will help us run such a race to the finish? Well, what helped Jesus to endure while he was a man on earth? He drew inward strength from the quality of joy. Hebrews 12:1-3 reads: “So, then, because we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also put off every weight and the sin that easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, as we look intently at the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus. For the joy that was set before him he endured a torture stake, despising shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Indeed, consider closely the one who has endured such contrary talk by sinners against their own interests, that you may not get tired and give out in your souls.”
3 All through his public ministry, Jesus was able to keep running the race because of the joy of Jehovah. (Compare Nehemiah 8:10.) His joy helped him endure even an ignominious death on the torture stake, after which he experienced the inexpressible joy of rising from the dead and ascending to his Father’s right hand, there to see God’s work through to its finish. By his endurance as a man on God’s side, he held on to his right to everlasting life. Yes, as Luke 21:19 says: “By endurance on your part you will acquire your souls.”
4. What kind of example did Jesus set for his fellow runners, and what should we keep our minds on?
4 Jesus Christ set the finest of examples for his fellow runners, and his example assures us that we too can be winners. (1 Peter 2:21) What Jesus asks us to do, we can do. As he endured, so can we. And as we hold on in steadfast imitation of him, we must keep our minds on our reasons to be joyful. (John 15:11, 20, 21) Joyfulness will strengthen us to persist in running the race in Jehovah’s service until the glorious prize of everlasting life is attained.—Colossians 1:10, 11.
5. How can we be joyful and strengthened for the race before us?
5 To help us persist in the race, Jehovah provides power beyond what is normal. When we are persecuted, that power and the knowledge of why we are privileged to undergo persecution strengthens us. (2 Corinthians 4:7-9) Anything undergone for the sake of honoring God’s name and upholding his sovereignty is a reason for a joy that no one can take away from us. (John 16:22) This explains why the apostles, after being beaten by the order of the Jewish Sanhedrin for bearing witness to the wonderful things Jehovah God had accomplished in connection with Jesus, rejoiced “because they had been counted worthy to be dishonored in behalf of his name.” (Acts 5:41, 42) Their joy did not come from the persecution itself but from the deep inner satisfaction of knowing they were pleasing Jehovah and Jesus.
6, 7. Why can the Christian runner exult even while he has tribulations, and with what outcome?
6 Another sustaining power in our lives is the hope that God has set before us. As Paul put it: “Let us enjoy peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have gained our approach by faith into this undeserved kindness in which we now stand; and let us exult, based on hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but let us exult while in tribulations, since we know that tribulation produces endurance; endurance, in turn, an approved condition; the approved condition, in turn, hope, and the hope does not lead to disappointment.”—Romans 5:1-5.
7 Tribulations in themselves are not joyous, yet the peaceable fruits that they yield afterward are. These fruits are endurance, an approved condition, hope, and the fulfillment of that hope. Endurance by us will lead to our receiving divine approval. When we have God’s approval, we can confidently hope for the realization of the promises he has made. This hope holds us true to our course and buoys us up under tribulation until the hope is fulfilled.—2 Corinthians 4:16-18.
Happy Are Those Who Endure!
8. Why is this waiting period not a waste of time for us?
8 While awaiting the divinely set time for distributing the prizes to the runners, there are changes we experience. These are spiritual improvements in us that result from meeting trials successfully, and they win us great favor with God. They prove what we are and give us the opportunity to exercise the same fine qualities that the faithful ones of old time, especially our Exemplar, Jesus Christ, displayed. Says the disciple James: “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you meet with various trials, knowing as you do that this tested quality of your faith works out endurance. But let endurance have its work complete, that you may be complete and sound in all respects, not lacking in anything.” (James 1:2-4) Yes, we may expect to have various trials, but these will serve to keep us cultivating the proper qualities. We thus demonstrate that we will stay in this race until the prize is won, no matter what obstacles we encounter.
9, 10. (a) Why are those who endure trials happy, and how should we face up to trials? (b) Who were the happy ones of old, and how can we be counted among them?
9 No wonder, then, that James said: “Happy is the man that keeps on enduring trial, because on becoming approved he will receive the crown of life, which Jehovah promised to those who continue loving him”! (James 1:12) Let us consistently face up to trials, armed with the godly qualities that will strengthen us to overcome them.—2 Peter 1:5-8.
10 Remember that the way God is dealing with us is not new or novel. The faithful “cloud of witnesses” of old times were dealt with in the same way as they proved their constancy to God. (Hebrews 12:1) God’s approval of them is recorded in his Word, and we count all of them happy because they held out under test. James says: “Brothers, take as a pattern of the suffering of evil and the exercising of patience the prophets, who spoke in the name of Jehovah. Look! We pronounce happy those who have endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome Jehovah gave, that Jehovah is very tender in affection and merciful.” (James 5:10, 11) It was foretold that during these critical last days, some would appear on the world scene who would serve Jehovah with integrity, just as those prophets did in ancient centuries. Are we not happy to be the ones doing so?—Daniel 12:3; Revelation 7:9.
Drawing on Jehovah’s Encouraging Word
11. How can God’s Word help us to endure, and why should we not be like the rocky places of Jesus’ parable?
11 Paul pointed to another aid in endurance when he said that “through patient endurance, and through the encouragement drawn from the Scriptures, we might hold fast to our hope.” (Romans 15:4, The Twentieth Century New Testament) The truth, God’s Word, must become deeply rooted within us so as to draw out from us a proper response at all times. We do not benefit at all by being like that rocky ground described in Jesus’ parable of the sower: “These are the ones sown upon the rocky places: as soon as they have heard the word, they accept it with joy. Yet they have no root in themselves, but they continue for a time; then as soon as tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, they are stumbled.” (Mark 4:16, 17) The truth from God’s Word does not become deeply rooted in such ones; hence, in times of tribulation, they are unable to draw on it as the true source of strength and hope.
12. Of what should we not be deluded when accepting the good news?
12 Anyone who accepts the Kingdom good news should not delude himself about what will follow. He is taking up a course of life that will incur tribulation or persecution. (2 Timothy 3:12) But he should count it “all joy” to have the privilege of undergoing various trials for holding fast to God’s Word and speaking about it to others.—James 1:2, 3.
13. How and why did Paul rejoice over the Christians in Thessalonica?
13 In the first century, opposers at Thessalonica rioted because of the preaching of Paul. When Paul went to Beroea, these persecutors followed him there in order to stir up more trouble. To those faithful ones who stayed behind in Thessalonica, the persecuted apostle wrote: “We are obligated to give God thanks always for you, brothers, as it is fitting, because your faith is growing exceedingly and the love of each and all of you is increasing one toward the other. As a result we ourselves take pride in you among the congregations of God because of your endurance and faith in all your persecutions and the tribulations that you are bearing. This is a proof of the righteous judgment of God, leading to your being counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are indeed suffering.” (2 Thessalonians 1:3-5) Notwithstanding their sufferings at enemy hands, Thessalonian Christians grew in Christlikeness and in numbers. How was that possible? Because they drew strength from Jehovah’s encouraging Word. They obeyed the Lord’s orders and ran the race with endurance.—2 Thessalonians 2:13-17.
For the Salvation of Others
14. (a) For what reasons do we joyfully remain in the ministry despite hardships? (b) For what do we pray, and why?
14 Primarily for the sake of God’s vindication, we faithfully and uncomplainingly put up with hardships and persecutions. But there is another unselfish reason why we submit to such things: in order that we may pass along the Kingdom tidings to others so that more publishers for God’s Kingdom may be raised up to make “public declaration for salvation.” (Romans 10:10) Those at work in God’s service should pray that the Master of the harvest bless their work by providing more publishers of the Kingdom. (Matthew 9:38) Paul wrote Timothy: “The things you heard from me with the support of many witnesses, these things commit to faithful men, who, in turn, will be adequately qualified to teach others. As a fine soldier of Christ Jesus take your part in suffering evil.”—2 Timothy 2:2, 3.
15. Why must we conduct ourselves like soldiers and contenders “in the games”?
15 A soldier separates himself from the less restricted life of the nonmilitary civilian. Likewise, we must not entangle ourselves with the affairs of those who are not in the Lord’s army but who are, in fact, on the opposing side. Thus, Paul further wrote Timothy: “No man serving as a soldier involves himself in the commercial businesses of life, in order that he may gain the approval of the one who enrolled him as a soldier. Moreover, if anyone contends even in the games, he is not crowned unless he has contended according to the rules.” (2 Timothy 2:4, 5) In striving for victory in the race for “the crown of life,” runners must practice self-control and avoid useless weights and entanglements. In this way they can concentrate on bringing the good news of salvation to others.—James 1:12; compare 1 Corinthians 9:24, 25.
16. What cannot be bound, and for whose benefit do we endure?
16 Because we love God and the sheeplike ones seeking to find him, we gladly put up with much in order to reach others with the good news of salvation. Enemies may bind us for preaching God’s Word. But God’s Word cannot be bound, and the speaking of it for the salvation of others cannot be chained. Paul described to Timothy why he was so willing to encounter trial: “Remember that Jesus Christ was raised up from the dead and was of David’s seed, according to the good news I preach; in connection with which I am suffering evil to the point of prison bonds as an evildoer. Nevertheless, the word of God is not bound. On this account I go on enduring all things for the sake of the chosen ones, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in union with Christ Jesus along with everlasting glory.” (2 Timothy 2:8-10) Today we have in mind not only the small remnant of those in line for the heavenly Kingdom but also the great crowd of other sheep of the Fine Shepherd, Jesus Christ, the great crowd who gain the earthly Paradise under Christ’s Kingdom.—Revelation 7:9-17.
17. Why should we not quit the race, and what results if we continue in the race to the end?
17 If we were quitters, we would not help ourselves or anybody else to salvation. By enduring in the Christian race, regardless of the obstacles encountered, we keep ourselves constantly in line for the prize and can directly help others to salvation, while being a forceful example of strength to others. Whatever our hope, heavenly or earthly, Paul’s attitude of “pursuing down toward the goal for the prize” is a fine one to imitate.—Philippians 3:14, 15.
Steadfast Continuance in the Race
18. Winning the prize depends on what, but to hold out to the end, what must be avoided?
18 Finishing our Christian course victoriously to Jehovah’s vindication and winning the prize he reserves for us depends on our steadfast continuance throughout the full length of the race. We cannot, therefore, hold out to the end if we load ourselves down with things not serving the cause of righteousness. Even when stripped of such things, the requirements are still exacting enough to call for all the fortitude that we can muster. Therefore, Paul counsels: “Let us also put off every weight and the sin that easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1) Like Jesus we should not overemphasize the sufferings to be borne but consider them a small price to pay for the joyous prize.—Compare Romans 8:18.
19. (a) What confidence did Paul express near the end of his life? (b) As we near the end of the race of endurance, what confidence should we have about the promised reward?
19 Near the end of his life, Paul was able to say: “I have fought the fine fight, I have run the course to the finish, I have observed the faith. From this time on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness.” (2 Timothy 4:7, 8) We are in this race of endurance to gain the prize of eternal life. If our endurance peters out just because the race is somewhat longer than we expected when we started it, we shall fail when we are close to gaining the promised reward. Make no mistake. There is no question that the reward is there.
20. What should be our determination until the end of the race is reached?
20 So may our eyes not grow weary with watching for the great tribulation to begin, bringing destruction first to Babylon the Great and then to the rest of the Devil’s organization. (2 Peter 3:11, 12) In view of all the telling signs round about us, may we look ahead in faith. May we gird up the loins of our powers of endurance, and may we carry on valiantly in the race that Jehovah God has set before us, until the end is reached and the joyous prize is gained, to Jehovah’s vindication through Jesus Christ.
How Would You Answer?
□ What kind of race must a Christian prepare for?
□ Why is joy so important in running the race?
□ For what main reasons do we remain in the ministry despite hardships?
□ Why should we not quit the race God has set before us?
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As if in a long-distance race, Christians must endure
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In reaching out for “the crown of life,” runners must practice self-control