Look to Jesus
Note: Read more from the author's "Runner in a Race" series here.
One of the many lessons I learned from my cross-country ski coach was to keep my head up and look ahead when skiing, particularly when skiing up a steep hill. Going up a sharp incline is hard work, and it is natural to look down when you are tired. The problem, however, is that looking down leads you to focus on the pain and impedes your forward movement. By looking up and ahead, you are in a better mental and physical position to drive yourself forward up the hill.
In a similar fashion, when we run the Christian race, we need to look up and ahead to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2). By encouraging us to look to Jesus, the author of Hebrews is not saying that we should merely think of Jesus, but that we ought to grasp the practical significance of who Jesus is and what he has done.
Specifically, what should we think about when we think about Jesus? When we look to Jesus, what should we see?
First, we should see our trailblazer. The author of Hebrews says that Jesus is the founder of our faith. The word “founder,” which is also used in Hebrews 2:10, may be translated as “pioneer.” The context in Hebrews strongly suggests the idea of a pioneer, who lays down a path for others to follow. In some of the cross-country ski races I attended, the racetrack had not been set by the morning of the race. This might have happened because of a lack of equipment or because of a heavy snowfall the night before. In such situations, it would be a serious handicap to race at the front because you would have to blaze the trail yourself, which would require a lot more effort. To make the race fair, two or three non-racing skiers would ski the course early in the morning to lay the track for everyone else to follow. They would be the trail blazers.
Similarly, Jesus is our trail blazer who has paved the way to God for us. That path had previously been barricaded by our sin, death and the evil one. But Jesus has come and blazed the entire trail from this present evil age to the age to come by his life, death, resurrection, and ascension. There is, therefore, nothing in our way to keep us from God and eternal glory. Indeed, as Paul says, there is nothing that shall separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus because “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Rom. 8:37).”
Second, we should see our example. Although the saints of Hebrews 11 serve as examples of how to run the race by faith to the end, Jesus is the example par excellence. He alone lived in complete and perfect trust and dependence upon God. Thus, he serves as the example of how we are to live our life (1 Pet. 2:21).
Moreover, Jesus is the person everyone ultimately follows. He is the one who brings many sons to glory, not Abraham or Moses. That is why we follow and imitate him. In a ski race, a fellow competitor might pass me on the trail, and I will then try my best to follow him. But both of us are following the trailblazer who has already established and completed the course. Likewise, we may follow godly Christians but only in so far as they are following Christ. If they go off the trail, we must not follow them. We need to follow Christ.
Third, we should see our reward. Jesus is no longer on the cross suffering for our sins. He is risen from the dead and “is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb. 12:2).” In other words, he has entered glory. We, however, are not yet in glory. We are on the way, but we have not yet arrived. We live in this fallen world and we will have to endure suffering to one degree or another. Indeed, we will all have to walk through the valley of the shadow of death. We can derive strength for our difficult journey by looking ahead to the reward that awaits us at the end, which is exactly how Jesus endured his suffering (Heb. 12:2). When we look to Jesus, who is in glory, we are looking at our reward. Paul says that we are co-heirs with Christ, “provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him (Rom. 8:17).” Although it may sound too good to be true, we will share in Christ’s glory and in his reward. Where he is, we will one day be. Thus, when you look to Jesus, you are looking at your future.
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Christian, you are a runner in a race. The race you are running is the most important race you will ever run. You have everything to lose if you quit, but everything and more if you finish. Therefore, run to win. Run together to the end. Keep your eyes on the prize and run with confidence. Run without any burdens and discard entanglements. Finally, look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of your faith.
Patrick Ramsey (@dprmsy) is pastor of Nashua Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Edinburg, Pennsylvania. He has written and contributed to numerous books and periodicals, including A Portrait of Christ, An Analysis of Herman Witsius's The Economy of the Covenants, and Samuel Rutherford: An Introduction to his Theology. He and his wife Rachel have five sons.
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