Author Tom Heymann, in his book entitled In an Average Lifetime, writes that an average American in an average lifetime will have spent three years in business meetings, 13 years watching television, and 24 years sleeping. An average American also will have caught 304 colds, consumed 109,354 pounds of food, and made 1,811 trips to McDonald's. While some things can be rather predictable in life, not all of it is that way. One of the greatest surprises in my own life has been seeing people who I never thought would make it as a Christian make it and seeing people who I never thought would fall as a Christian fall. You can't always predict who will do what. Some people will have a powerful start as a Christian and then will crash and burn. Others will have a rather weak start but will somehow pull it together in the end. Best of all are those who start and finish this Christian life with flying colors. I want to be one of those people, don't you? The good news is that you can be.
We do have a say-so as to how the race will turn out. It really comes down to the choices you make on a daily basis. As I have said before, people fall away from the Lord because, for all practical purposes, they choose to. What can you do today that will ensure you still will be walking with the Lord 25 years from now? We find some practical steps in Hebrews 12.
First, we need to consider the winners (verse 1). The author of Hebrews tells us that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. The author is referring to those mentioned in Hebrews 11. These men and women lived godly and obedient lives. They gave us an example to follow — a pace to keep, if you will.
Second, we need to consider ourselves (verse 2). When the race is difficult, we like to blame circumstances or other people, and sometimes even God. We need to remember that if we stumble or fall in the race of life, it is our own fault, because "His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness" (2 Peter 1:3 NKJV).
We are also told to "lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us" (verse 1). I think it is important to note the distinction here. The Bible tells us what sin is. We are to lay it aside. We are also told to lay aside "every weight." But what may be a weight to one person is not necessarily a weight to another. Ask this question periodically about questionable areas in your life: "Is it a wing or is it a weight? Is it something that speeds me on my way? Or is it something that slows me down?"
Third, we need to consider the race itself (verse 2). In some races, each runner is assigned a lane on the track. The runners are expected to stay in their lanes for the duration of the race. In the same way, as we run the race of life, the goal is not to outrun each other. The goal is to outrun those wicked influences that could bring us down. You are not to concern yourself with who is ahead of you or who is behind you. God has not called you to run someone else's race. He has called you to run your own race. Run the race that is set before you.
Fourth, we are to consider Jesus Christ (verse 2). As we run this race of life, we should keep our eyes on Jesus. Circumstances will disappoint, and at times, devastate us. People will let us down and fall short of our expectations. Feelings will come and go. But Jesus will always be there with outstretched arms saying, "You can do this. You can live this life. You can finish this race. I am here with you. Let's do it."
Which do you want to be in this spiritual race: a winner or a loser? Jesus was the greatest winner of all. Yet He experienced rejection. He experienced deep sorrow. He experienced intense loneliness. He experienced every human emotion. Jesus has run before us, and He has shown us how to win this race of life. But we must keep looking to Him. He will see us through.
The story of Johnny Cash’s life and spiritual struggles offers hope to anyone who has had trouble staying on the straight and narrow path—and reminds us that God redeems broken lives and makes them whole again. My new book, Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon is a fascinating look at a unique and talented musician and follower of Christ!