Wander, plod, amble, meander, ramble, hike, saunter, stroll, trek. The English language includes a lot of different words to speak about walking.Each word can be used to imply walking at different speeds, and with a varying level of purposefulness.
In the New Testament, when the writer of Hebrews encourages their readers to keep going, there is no messing about. The cry is not to saunter, or to wander, but to run.
We read this “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.” (Hebrews 12:1)
Sometimes when I’m walking I compare my pace with that of others I can see around me. Despite being of average height, I can usually get up to a pace which meets, or exceeds that of others. I like to think that it is because I’m faster, but know that in reality it’s just because no one else is trying to race me! Of course, sometimes someone much faster comes past me, and try as I might I sometimes can’t keep up. It’s easy in the moments when everyone seems to be moving ahead faster than us to allow discouragement to come in and take root in our lives. At these times our observation of others and our comparison with our view of our own lives can cause us to draw the wrong conclusions about the progress we are making, or where we should be by now.
It is significant that in the passage quoted above, the command to move forward is accompanied by some encouragement on how we should do this. The advice is clear. Once we’ve thrown off the things that hinder, and removed the sin which entangles we are to:
– Run with perseverance (v1).
– Run the race marked out for us (v1).
– Fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith (v2),
– Consider Jesus who endured opposition (v3)
All of these combine to help us so that we will not grow weary and lose heart.
It all makes perfect sense. We need to persevere and finish the race that God has called us to run with him. We all know that finishing well is really important.
We should run our own race, not be distracted by what another’s life is like or how their decisions are turning out.
We must focus our attention on Jesus, not least because he has pioneered a route for us and stands ahead of us at the finishing line.
Finally we are to consider the struggles that Jesus faced and be encouraged that we are not alone in ours.
Even though we know this is how we are to run, we also experience the truth that running is not possible for ever. Even the most gifted marathon runners have to stop eventually. All of us get to a point where we feel we cannot go on. What should we do then?
In the times when we feel that we are not running as fast as we once did, or as swiftly as others are now, we should look to verses like the ones we’ve read here and put their encouragement into practice again. Whatever has been happening all around us, now is a great time to decide to take another step in God. With God’s help we remove the sin which entangles, we look again to Jesus and then we determine to take another step. Then we do it all over again. And again.
The issue at stake is not the pace at which we are travelling, but that we are moving at all and that we are heading God’s way. We shouldn’t beat ourselves up if we feel that all we can do is plod. It doesn’t matter whether we are marching, hiking or plodding. All that matters is that we simply keep taking bold steps towards Jesus. He’s calling us on!