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. Hebrews 12:1
The first time I participated in any official race, I couldn’t believe how many clothes lined the streets during those first few miles. We’d be moving along and pass a sweatshirt here, a long-sleeved t-shirt there. I think I even saw some raincoats thrown to the side of the course. I’d heard about this, that volunteers come through and collect the items and then donate them to people who need them. It struck me as odd, nonetheless, that we were allowed to cast off layers of clothing and just leave them right there on the street. I actually found it to be convenient, and in a weird sort of way, fun. Convenient because I was cold when the race started, but once I got moving and down the course a bit, I got warm and required less clothing. Fun because, really, how often does one get to shed pieces of clothing and leave them on the street?
As we embark on a whole new season of Team Hope, we have a race set before us. That race really has little to do with shedding sweatshirts or even the crazy hills that we’ll run or walk in Cincinnati. It’s a race set before us by God himself. He designed this course. He developed the training plans. He alone holds the medals waiting for us at the end. It’s a race to follow Him into the dark strongholds of childhood slavery and hopelessness.
Hebrews chapter 11 recounts several “Faith Heroes” whose lives are highlighted in the Old Testament at some point. Abraham, Noah, Moses, Daniel, Samson, and more. Each one of them had a course of his or her own laid out for them by God Himself. And each of them ran his or her own race the same way. In faith. Pure and utter faith. Unaltered from his hope, the old man Abraham ”was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise (Heb. 11:11).” In faith, he believed and so was able to see God do the impossible. That was part of his race. Focused on the hope of the promise of God Himself, Noah was able to save his family from the doom of the flood because he trusted God with unwavering faith. Each person mentioned in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews had a different course to run. But each ran it the same way. Unhindered faith. Single-minded focus. They knew the hope for which they ran.
Our race is the same. Sure, we each might have a different course, depending on the length of the race we sign up for. But, in all truth, the hope for which we run this race is the same one for which Moses ran. The hope of the promise of God Himself.
See, He promised, to break the chains of injustice if we will humble ourselves for real and trust Him for our strength and sustenance (Isaiah 58). He promised to set the oppressed free if we will trust Him, in true and sincere faith, to fill us with His strength.
The trouble is, like those unnecessary sweatshirts and long-sleeves, we all have stuff that hinders us from running this course to the best of our ability. Maybe it’s pride. You feel weird asking people for money. Or maybe it’s fear. You’ve never done anything like this in your life. Or maybe it’s something altogether different. It doesn’t matter what it is. What matters is that you throw it off. Trust the God Who designed the race. Believe that He wants to use you to free kids held captive by horrible, evil people. Believe that He has each step of this entire race laid out.
And just run.