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Which Bible Verse Says Tells Us to Run the Race for Jesus?

"Run the Race" is one of those New Testament verses we see at every Christian conference, sports event, or summer camp. But what is it really telling us to do?

Sep 02, 2022
Which Bible Verse Says Tells Us to Run the Race for Jesus?

My cousin ran in the 2013 Boston Marathon, which is quite an accomplishment when you consider how thousands are turned away every year because they didn’t qualify to start the race. Thanks be to Jesus Christ that every believer qualifies to start the race. But how will we finish it?

Where Does the Bible Tell Us to Run the Race?

The Bible refers to running the race in several verses. A few include 2 Timothy 4:7-8, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” And Philippians 3:14 says, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” However, one of the most well-known passages on running the race is found in Hebrews 12:1-3.

What Kind of Race Is Hebrews 12 Describing?

Hebrews 12:1-3 speaks of the spiritual race that believers run every day.

Running the race does not refer to the believer’s ability to reach heaven. That’s decided when we put our trust and faith in Jesus (John 10:28). But how we run the race determines whether we receive rewards or crowns.

  • Some Christians run aimlessly, unaware of their responsibility and reward.
  • Others start in a frenzy, only to wear themselves out quickly.
  • And some, like Paul, run the race imperfectly but consistently

We all run toward something in life. Is it Jesus?

I recently watched the Tour De France. It’s a different type of race but what struck me most was the crowd of people leaning onto the narrow road waving signs and flags as cyclists flew by on their way to the finish line.

In life, we have similar distractions vying for our allegiance to Christ, but the writer of Hebrews tells us how to stay focused on the finish line: “lay aside” (or throw off) every weight and sin that so easily entangles, or clings, to us.

Lust, pride, worry, and many other sins wave their flag in hopes of distracting or derailing us. But not everything that weighs us down, or encumbers us, is necessarily a sin. Maybe it’s a hobby, which is fine, but what if it consumes our thoughts and life begins to revolve around it? Our eyes have gotten off the prize.

We’re commanded to lay aside the weighty things, repent, and turn away from the sins that cling as tightly to our souls as a sweaty shirt on a runner’s back. A repentant, clear conscience clears the hindrances, allowing us to run lightly, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.

The first verse in Hebrews 12 begins with the word “therefore,” which prompts the question, “what’s it there for?” For the answer, we go back to Hebrews 10:35-36. We run the race and finish strong because we will be richly rewarded if we persevere in doing God’s will.

What Is Needed to Run the Race for Jesus?

In 1 Corinthians 9:26, Paul says we’re not to run aimlessly or box as one beating the air. Like a physical race, the spiritual one also requires diligence, training, and self-denial. If we observed the regimen of a long-distance runner, we would notice specific choices they make to prepare and run the race. These choices mirror our race as well:

Runners eat clean. Remember the saying you are what you eat? It’s true both physically and spiritually. Jeremiah 15:16 says, “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, LORD God Almighty.” Clean eating, or eating foods in their natural state, help our physical bodies to operate at a more efficient level. When we meditate or “chew” on Scripture, we spiritually digest it, just as we digest the food we eat. The pure Word of God meshes with everything we think and do, radically aiding our ability to run the race before us. When we “eat” clean, our focus remains sharp, keeping us alert to the enemy’s schemes.

Runners pace themselves. The Christian race is a marathon, not a sprint, meaning that consistency, not the speed at which we run, is the key. We’ve all known those who wear themselves out only to burn out. They’re sitting on the sidelines, and if they remain and don’t finish the race, they won’t forfeit heaven, but they will forfeit the rewards that await. We do serve God, but He cares more about who we are becoming than what we are doing.

Runners participate in strength training. Like the physical muscles stretched and strengthened to help prevent injury and produce endurance, spiritual muscles also require stretching and lengthening. Trials create opportunities for us to persevere. James 1:2-4 tells us to consider it pure joy when (not if) we face trials of many kinds because we know the testing of our faith produces perseverance, and when we let perseverance finish its work in us, we will be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Runners define their goals. When I participated in a Couch-to-5K, I was given tiny steps to move me closer to the goal. As Christ’s runners, we are also wise to set goals and plan steps toward achieving them. For instance, to avoid debt becoming a hindrance to our race, we set goals for our finances. Freeing that burden helps us to run lighter.

Runners hydrate properly. Drinking water consistently throughout the race helps to avoid dehydration, which can cause confusion and negatively affect their performance. John 7:38 says that whoever believes in Jesus, as Scripture has said, will have rivers of living water flowing from within them. This living water represents the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, who indwells every believer. When we stay in step with the Spirit, He gives clarity, equipping us to run straight and strong.

Runners compete with themselves, not others. The runner’s goal is to improve their individual time, not obsess over how everyone else is doing or find ways to cut everyone else down. When believers carry a competitive mindset into their lives, ministries, or workplaces, they weigh themselves down.

Set aside time to recover from exercise. According to Runners World, it’s important for runners in training to take time for rest. In fact, they suggest taking one day a week off from running. Sound familiar? Sabbath rest is a gift from God.

Runners don’t allow age to deter them. A 70-year-old man, Jo Schoonbroodt, recently became the fastest septuagenarian in history, running a marathon in under three hours. While our physical bodies naturally age, becoming older does not weaken or forfeit our opportunity to finish the race strong.

How Does Focusing on Jesus Help Us Run the Race?

Hebrews 12:2b-3 says, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Jesus paved the way for our race by finishing His victoriously, showing us what it means to run with endurance and eyes fixed on the finish line. Joyfully, Jesus endured what none of us could so that through His suffering and resurrection, we might have the privilege of running this race of faith for our reward, Jesus Christ.

A Prayer to Run the Race Well

Author and Perfector of my faith, like Paul, I want to be able to say before crossing the finish line that I have fought the good fight and have kept the faith, but I can’t do this in my own strength. Your Word is my manual for how to walk victoriously with You daily, and I pray Your Holy Spirit will give me wisdom and discernment as I follow Your commands. Keep me from stumbling or becoming distracted by the flags of life as I set my eyes on You alone. Amen.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Paul Bradbury 

Cathy Baker Salem Web Network ContributorCathy Baker is the author of Pauses for the Vacationing Soul: A Sensory-Based Devotional Guide for the Beach and Pauses for the Vacationing Soul: A Sensory-Based Devotional Guide for the Mountains. She writes from a tiny studio lovingly known as The Tiny House on the Hill in the Foothills of SC. As an author, Hope Writer, and Bible teacher for over twenty-five years, she encourages women to pause and embrace the seemingly small, mundane moments of their day for God’s glory. She invites you to join her in the tiny house where you’re always welcome to come in and take a seat.

This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible verse phrases and quotes. We want to provide easy to read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin, and history of specific verses within Scripture's context. It is our hope that these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God's Word in relation to your life today.

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Fight the Good Fight
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Faith Can Move Mountains

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