If you want to hit something, you have to aim for it - and to aim at it, you have to focus on it. Seldom will you hit something without having been intentional. Focus is a key ingredient for success. If you’re focused in too many directions, your strength will be defused and you will not be as successful as you could be. This is how it is with the Christian life, too.
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Hebrews 12:1-2 (KJV) - Emphasis mine
The first thing which I want to mention from this verse is that we run with patience the race that is set before us. You don’t get to choose your race – the direction you’re going in. God created you on purpose and for a purpose, and that purpose is what will bring you most satisfaction and joy. You’ll never be complete without knowing and walking in that purpose. (Watch my Discover your Destiny series on YouTube! It’s a six-part series – here is part 1)
The next thing which we need to realize is that this race is a marathon, and not a sprint! We’re encouraged to run with patience (some translations say endurance), which means that you won’t finish your race overnight. In our microwave-culture we expect things to happen yesterday. We even get impatient when reheating something in the microwave – a few seconds isn’t quick enough for a lot of us. Time is a true test of faith because it checks to see if you still believe what you said you believe even though you haven’t seen it yet. I like this definition of patience: faith over a prolonged period of time.
I’m thankful that we aren’t just told to run a race but we’re told how to run, too. You run your race looking unto Jesus. Jesus is the origin of your faith (it is born out of relationship with Him) and it is perfected and strengthened in Him. You will never be strong in faith without focusing on Jesus, and you will never fulfil your destiny and calling without strong faith. God set it up so that it would be effortless. You do not need to manufacture the energy and power (faith) necessary to fulfil your purpose – rather it is a natural by-product of relationship with Jesus. It really is that simple. The problem is that many people aren’t focused on who Jesus really is.
“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
John 1:14 (KJV)
Jesus is the Word that was made flesh and dwelt among us. He is the glory of God full of grace and truth. Jesus is full of grace (undeserved, unmerited, unearned favour) and truth. Many people seem to think that truth is the Ten Commandments (the law), but that isn’t true. This is clear in the next few verses:
“And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”
John 1:16-17 (KJV)
The fullness of Jesus is grace, and from Jesus we receive grace, and more grace. We never receive the burden of the law and the guilt, shame and condemnation that it brings with it. The law was given by Moses, not Jesus. Grace and truth came by Jesus. This shows us that truth and grace are on the same side, but law is an opposite. This is powerful! You can never know God properly through the law and you will never have the faith you need to run your race as long as you are trying to relate to God according to the law, your efforts and performance.
Focusing on Jesus is about focusing on who He is and what He has done for us; it’s about His unconditional love and grace, and the finished work for us. When we are not focused on Jesus and who He really is, we will not have the strength and wisdom to run correctly and will not finish our course. When we are focused on Jesus, it strengthens us in faith (and brings a confidence in us) and empowers us (makes us strong) to run with patience. The only way to run your race successfully is from relationship with God – a relationship in which you are relating to Him based on what He has done (grace) and not what you do (performance).