Thousands of runners from around the world converged on the streets of Berlin, Germany for the annual Berlin Marathon. As one of the six World Marathon Majors, Berlin draws a large and fast contingent of runners. At last year’s race, Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya set the world record at the marathon distance in an astounding time of 2:01:39. This year was no different.
"I want to become an athlete of influence!"
While Kipchoge opted not to run, his teammate Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia ran and ran well. To say he ran well is a massive understatement as Bekele shattered his own personal best and came within just two seconds of breaking Kipchoge’s world record from the previous year.
Because of the six-hour time difference, I didn’t watch the entirety of the race (3:15 AM ET start time). However, I did wake up in time to catch the last 2-3 miles of the race. At this point, Bekele was all alone.
He had gapped the field, the win was pretty much secured, and his eyes were set on the world record. Although I’m sure he felt otherwise, the closing miles of the race looked effortless for Bekele. His stride was smooth, his muscles fired harmoniously with every bouncy step he took, and his face showed few, if any signs of distress that most marathoners would show at that stage of a race.
Years of training and other variables led to this, but for a performance like this to occur, Bekele had to run free.
To run free would be to run without any hindrance or extra weight that would slow a runner down. What would this look like for an elite runner? Some potential hindrances or weights could include excessively loose and baggy uniforms, shoes that don’t fit properly leading to subsequent blisters, one too many breadsticks at the pre-race pasta dinner, and of course, any nagging injuries one may have.
Just as an elite marathoner must run free of anything that gets in the way of peak performance, so too are followers of Jesus. To live the life that we have been called to as believers, we must eliminate anything that keeps us from Jesus.
Hebrews 12:1 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us."
Here we see two things that can keep us from running the race we have been called to. Weight and sin.
Every weight- Weight is anything that keeps us from Jesus, even things that on the surface are good. “Excess weights” seem to abound for today’s Christian. Being too busy and overstimulation/distractions (i.e social media and a deluge of technology) are examples that come to mind. Also, good things in our lives can become weights when they are elevated to places they weren’t meant to be. Sports, relationships, school, and a healthy social life are great, but when we place too much focus, value, and time into them, they can become problematic to a well-run race.
Sin which clings so closely- Sin is what separates us from God. It is why Jesus came to Earth to live, die, and pay the price for us so that we would have a way back to God. Although our sin has been covered by the blood of Jesus, we are still human. We are still prone to sin, prone to mess up, and prone to fall short. There are things that we all struggle with, habitual sins we may have, or temptations that continually trip us up.
Weight and sin keeps us from running the race well. So how do we “lay aside” the weights and the sin that hinders us? Honestly evaluate what it is that is keeping you from Jesus. Repent of sin and pray for the wisdom/discernment on changes that need to take place in your life to help you avoid excess weight.
Ultimately, we lack the strength to do this on our own. In the next verse, we are called to “look to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). We need to continually keep our gaze fixed on Jesus to run unhindered. Pray to be filled with the Spirit and for the Lord to help you keep your gaze fixed on Jesus, allowing you to run your race well.
Whether or not you are a runner, as followers of Jesus, we are called to run the race that God has for each of us. There will be hills, valleys, and tough moments along the way, but laying aside weights and sins will allow us, like Bekele in the Berlin Marathon, to run our race well.