Run the Race With Endurance
“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”—HEBREWS 12:1.
1, 2. What does the Bible say is similar to the life of true Christians?
EACH year many people around the world run in marathon races. Some who run in these races are very good runners, and they want to win. But most of the other runners know that they cannot win the race. The most important thing to them is just to finish the race.
2 The Bible also talks about a race. It explains that the life of true Christians is like a race that has a prize. Those who make the effort to live like Christians and to remain loyal to Jehovah are like runners who want to finish the race. The apostle Paul wrote about this type of race in his first letter to the Christians in ancient Corinth. He wrote: “Do you not know that the runners in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may attain it.”—1 Corinthians 9:24.
3. What did Paul mean when he said that only one receives the prize?
3 So when Paul said that only one receives the prize, did he mean that only one Christian would receive the prize of life? No. He was talking about the reason why the runners in races ran. The Christians in Corinth knew that all the runners in a race were determined to win, even though only one runner received the prize. That is why all runners trained very well and ran in the best way they could. They all made great efforts to win. Paul wanted his brothers to make every effort to remain loyal to Jehovah and finish the race. All Christians who do this can win the prize of everlasting life.
4. What do we need to know about the race that Christians run?
4 Those words are encouraging to us, but they also make us think seriously about how we are living. If we live in a way that pleases Jehovah, we have a wonderful hope of living forever either in heaven or in Paradise on earth. But life as a Christian is like running a very long race on a road with many dangers. There are many things that could slow us down in Jehovah’s service or even stop us from serving Jehovah. (Matthew 7:13, 14) This has already happened to some servants of Jehovah. What traps and dangers are there in the race for life? How can you avoid them? What can you do to finish and win the race?
TO WIN WE MUST ENDURE
5. What did Paul explain at Hebrews 12:1?
5 When Paul wrote to the Hebrew Christians in Jerusalem and Judea, he again talked about runners in a race. (Read Hebrews 12:1.) He explained why Christians should continue to run their race and also what they must do to finish the race. First we will talk about why Paul wrote this letter to the Hebrews and what he wanted them to do. Then we will talk about what we can learn from what he wrote to them.
6. What did the religious leaders try to do to Christians?
6 The Christians in the first century lived during a very difficult time. This was especially true of the Hebrew Christians in Jerusalem and Judea because the Jewish religious leaders tried to force people to obey them. Earlier, they had even made people believe that Jesus Christ was against the government and was a criminal who deserved to die. These religious leaders had killed Jesus Christ, and now they wanted to stop those who were preaching about him. In the book of Acts, we can read what happened after Pentecost of the year 33. These leaders attacked the Christians many times to try to stop them from preaching. So life was very difficult for faithful Christians.—Acts 4:1-3; 5:17, 18; 6:8-12; 7:59; 8:1, 3.
7. What made the time that those Christians lived in very difficult?
7 Another reason why those Christians lived in a very difficult time was that the destruction of Jerusalem was near. Jesus had warned them that Jerusalem was going to be destroyed. He told them what would happen just before this destruction, and he also told them exactly what they should do to stay alive. (Read Luke 21:20-22.) Jesus warned them: “Pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life, and suddenly that day be instantly upon you.”—Luke 21:34.
8. What might have caused some Christians to slow down in serving Jehovah or even stop?
8 Paul wrote to the Hebrew Christians nearly 30 years after Jesus said those words. What happened to these Christians during those 30 years? Because of problems or because they became worried about their daily needs, some did not continue to learn about Jehovah and keep their friendship with him strong. (Hebrews 5:11-14) Some Christians probably thought that it would be easier to live like the Jews around them. They might have thought that this was not wrong because the Jews still believed in God and obeyed most of the Law of Moses. Also, there were some people in the congregations who were trying to force others to obey the Law of Moses and Jewish traditions. Some Christians believed them, and others listened to them because they were afraid. What did Paul say to encourage his Christian brothers to continue living like Christians and to remain loyal to Jehovah?
9, 10. (a) At the end of Hebrews chapter 10, what did Paul say the Hebrew Christians needed to do? (b) Why did Paul write about the acts of faith of servants of Jehovah in the past?
9 Jehovah inspired Paul to write this letter of encouragement to the Hebrew Christians. In chapter 10, he first explained to them that the Law of Moses was “a shadow of the good things to come” and that only through the sacrifice of Jesus could their sins be forgiven. At the end of chapter 10, Paul told them that to benefit from this sacrifice, they needed endurance. He said: “You have need of endurance, in order that, after you have done the will of God, you may receive the fulfillment of the promise. For yet ‘a very little while,’ and ‘he who is coming will arrive and will not delay.’”—Hebrews 10:1, 36, 37.
10 In Hebrews chapter 11, Paul explained what true faith in God is. He did so by writing about the things that people with true faith did. In chapter 12, he again encouraged Christians to endure and told them to “run with endurance the race” that was before them. Why did he talk about faith before he again talked about endurance? Because he wanted those Christians to know that to show true faith in Jehovah, they needed endurance and courage. He mentioned many men and women who in the past had remained loyal to Jehovah even in very difficult situations. Their example would help the Hebrew Christians to endure in difficult situations. After mentioning the acts of faith of all these servants of Jehovah, Paul told the Hebrew Christians: “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.”—Hebrews 12:1.
“A CLOUD OF WITNESSES”
11. When we think of the example of the great “cloud of witnesses,” what should we remember?
11 Paul said that the servants of Jehovah who lived before the Christian time were a great “cloud of witnesses surrounding us.” They had remained loyal to Jehovah to the end of their lives, and their example shows that it is possible for Christians to remain loyal to Jehovah even in very difficult situations. The “cloud of witnesses” were like experienced runners who had finished their race. Their example would encourage others to continue to run the race. If we were in a race and knew that very good runners were watching us and encouraging us to continue running, then we would do our best to finish the race. So the Hebrew Christians needed to think about the example of those servants of Jehovah in the past. Their example could give them courage and remind them that it was possible for them to “run with endurance” and finish their race. And it is possible for us too.
12. What can we learn from the faith of the people Paul talked about?
12 We can learn from the faith of the people that Paul talked about because many of them were in situations like ours. For example, Noah lived just before Jehovah destroyed the world of that time in a flood. And we are living just before Jehovah destroys Satan’s world. Jehovah asked Abraham and Sarah to leave their home. He promised to make from them a nation to serve him, and they waited for him to fulfill that promise. Jehovah asks us to stop living for ourselves and to live for him. He promises us that if we do that, he will be our friend and will reward us. Moses walked a long way through a dangerous land to go to the Promised Land. We live in a wicked world and wait for the new world that Jehovah has promised us. It is important for us to think about the life of these faithful people. We can imitate the things they did to please Jehovah and learn from the things that did not please him.—Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11.
WHAT HELPED THEM TO FINISH THE RACE?
13. Why was Noah’s situation difficult? What helped him to do everything that Jehovah told him to do?
13 What helped these servants of Jehovah to endure in the race and finish it? Note what Paul wrote about Noah. (Read Hebrews 11:7.) Noah had never seen a flood that destroyed all people and animals. (Genesis 6:17) A flood had never happened before. But Noah did not think that a flood was impossible. Why? Because he had faith that Jehovah always does what he says. So Noah did not think that it was too difficult to obey Jehovah. He did exactly what Jehovah commanded him. The Bible says: “He did just so.” (Genesis 6:22) Noah had many things to do. He needed to build the ark, gather the animals, store food for his family and for the animals, warn the people about the Flood, and help his family to have strong faith in Jehovah. It was not always easy for Noah to do everything that Jehovah commanded him. But he had faith in Jehovah, so he endured in the work that he had to do. And Jehovah saved him and his family and gave them many blessings.
14. In what situations did Abraham and Sarah show faith in God? What can we learn from their example?
14 Paul mentioned Abraham and Sarah as part of the “cloud of witnesses surrounding us.” Their life changed when God told them to leave their home in Ur. They did not know what would happen to them. But they had strong faith in Jehovah and obeyed him even in difficult situations. The Bible calls Abraham “the father of all those having faith” because he made many sacrifices for Jehovah. (Romans 4:11) The Hebrew Christians already knew about the life of Abraham and his family, so Paul mentioned only some of their acts of faith. But these were enough to show how strong their faith was. Paul said about them: “In faith all these died, although they did not get the fulfillment of the promises, but they saw them afar off and welcomed them and publicly declared that they were strangers and temporary residents in the land.” (Hebrews 11:13) Their faith in God and their friendship with him helped them to endure in the race.
15. Why did Moses choose to live the way he did?
15 Moses is another servant of Jehovah who is part of the “cloud of witnesses.” Moses left his home just as Abraham did. Moses left the glory and the riches of the king’s palace. He chose “to be ill-treated with the people of God.” Why did he choose to do this? Paul answered: “He looked intently toward the payment of the reward.” Paul also said about Moses: “He continued steadfast as seeing the One who is invisible.” (Read Hebrews 11:24-27.) Moses knew that there was something more important than “the temporary enjoyment of sin.” God was real to him, and he knew that all of God’s promises would come true. That is what helped him to act with great courage and to endure in difficult situations. And it helped him to work hard to lead the Israelites out of Egypt to the Promised Land.
16. How do we know that Moses did not give up because he could not enter the Promised Land?
16 Abraham and Moses died before God’s promises to them came true. Just before the Israelites entered the Promised Land, God told Moses: “From a distance you will see the land, but you will not go there into the land that I am giving to the sons of Israel.” Because they acted improperly at the waters of Meribah, Moses and Aaron did not enter the Promised Land. They allowed the rebellious people to make them very angry, so they acted in a way that did not honor God. (Deuteronomy 32:51, 52) Moses did not give up because he could not enter the Promised Land. He did not think that what God decided was unjust. We know this because he asked Jehovah to bless the people of Israel. His last words to them were: “Happy you are, O Israel! Who is there like you, a people enjoying salvation in Jehovah, the shield of your help, and the One who is your eminent sword?”—Deuteronomy 33:29.
SOME LESSONS FOR US
17, 18. (a) What can we learn from the “cloud of witnesses”? (b) What will we talk about in the next article?
17 We learned from the life of some of those who are part of the “cloud of witnesses surrounding us” that to finish the race, we must have strong faith in God and in his promises. (Hebrews 11:6) This faith must affect the way we live our life now. We know that there is a better future that God has promised us. We are able to see “the One who is invisible.” God is real to us, so we run the race with endurance.—2 Corinthians 5:7.
18 The race that Christians run is not easy. But we can finish the race. In the next article, we will talk about some other things that can help us to finish the race.
SOME WORDS EXPLAINED
▪ Cloud of witnesses: The many servants of God in the past who showed faith. Paul said that they were a large “cloud.” There were so many that they could not be counted
▪ Endurance: When someone has endurance, he remains loyal to God even in difficult situations
CAN YOU EXPLAIN?
▪ Why did Paul write about the acts of faith of witnesses in the past?
▪ How does the example of the great “cloud of witnesses surrounding us” help us to endure in the race?
▪ What have you learned from the examples of Noah, Abraham, Sarah, and Moses?
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Christians who remain loyal to Jehovah are like runners who finish a race
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Noah had faith in what Jehovah promised to do and endured in the work that he had to do
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Abraham and Sarah had strong faith in God and obeyed him even in difficult situations
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Abraham and Sarah were willing to leave behind the comforts of Ur