Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Discipline is just plain hard.
Discipline to eat right
Discipline to exercise
Discipline to floss
Discipline to plan ahead
Discipline to do our homework
Discipline to practice
This struggle certainly carries over into our spiritual lives. With the busyness of our day and crowdedness of our lives, it’s hard to maintain the discipline to pray, to worship, to attend a small group, to read the Bible, or to regularly offer our time to someone in need.
The writer of the book of Hebrews gives us some excellent advice on how to run with perseverance the race marked out for us. We each have our own race to run that is different from everyone else. Where do we find the strength to finish our race with dignity and victory?
1. Be inspired by those who finished strong before you.
We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. What does that mean? The writer is referring to the list of people he just mentioned in the previous chapter. People like Moses, Abraham, Rahab and Joseph. Each person had a different race marked out for them. Their journeys were filled with extreme difficulties. And yet, each one finished strong and have gone down in history as people who accomplished great things.
The writer gives us an action step: Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.
Weights: A winning runner wouldn’t carry a backpack full of rocks. As a matter of fact, runners that win races strip themselves of every weight possible, wearing the lightest clothing, the lightest shoes.
Entanglements: A winning runner would never run with his or her shoes untied. He wouldn’t run with a group of people that would trip him up.
Make a list of things that weigh you down or entangle you in your spiritual race. It could be a variety of things – a relationship, a location, the wrong influence, a wrong goal, an addiction, a bad attitude or negative thinking. Once you identify it, get rid of it. This will lighten your load and make the race much more doable.
2. Fix your eyes on Jesus
Jesus is the supreme example for us to follow. The race set before him was truly great and yet it included his crucifixion. How did he make it? He saw the finish line – sitting on the right hand of his Father, exalted, knowing he had made a way for all people to come back into a relationship with God. While he was experiencing his most intense pain and disappointment, he went to the finish line in his mind and it gave him the strength to endure the struggle now.
Someone once said, “The successful person has the habit of doing the things failures don’t like to do. They don’t like doing them either necessarily. But their disliking is subordinate to the strength of their purpose.”
When you struggle to apply discipline to your physical fitness journey, close your eyes and think of the finish line. Think of being at your ideal weight, having more energy, feeling good emotionally and physically, having clothes that fit better, taking a hike up a mountain to see a breathtaking view without losing your breath.
When you struggle to apply discipline to your spiritual fitness journey, close your eyes and think of the finish line. Think of the exhilaration of living out your God-given purpose, of experiencing the blessings of God, of impacting so many people along the way, of knowing you lived a life that was pleasing to God. The saints of the Old Testament and Jesus himself will tell you from their own experience, this will set you apart and give you the boost of discipline you need to see it through.