Hebrews 12:1-3 (ESV) 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, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
You have likely heard the anecdote about training race car drivers. One of the first things they teach aspiring high-speed drivers who favor left turns is that at 180mph, where your focus goes your car goes. Look at the wall and hit the wall! I think anyone with some driving experience probably realizes it happens at 30mph, which is why distracted driving is so dangerous.
For many of us, our Christian lives are “distracted driving.” We are not so good at being focused. In a typical day I might receive 150 emails (80% advertisements) about 30-50 texts, and 10-15 calls. Plus, of course, sometimes my wife needs my attention or one of the kids. I have things that have to get done; I am sure every one of you reading this relates to that. I do not know anyone who thinks, “I sure wish I had MORE to do today!”
Yet, the writer of Hebrews reminds us this short life is also a race - a marathon type race - and we have no choice but to run it. All of us are going to go through the next number of unknown days we are going to have. Hopefully many days are left for our individual races. But we are going to keep running. So, the issue is not the race of life, or even the pace of life (only some of which is directly in our control), it is HOW do we want to run.
The writer of Hebrews’ recommendation here is to lay aside whatever holds us down. It might be physical stuff or it could be some persistent sin, or worry, or anxiety, or greed, or lust, or anger or whatever. Some of what encumbers us is sin and some is not. But we are to take our focus off of those things and look toward the one who is both the finish line and the one who has run the race before us: Jesus.
When it says "looking to" here the word means literally "give undivided attention to." I think the writers point is that if we want to lay aside the stuff (sinful or not) that is slowing us down, that makes our race in this life burdensome, it is not so much we need to quit our job, or smash our TV with a hammer (that might help though), or go live in a cabin by the creek for a year by ourselves (that also has some appeal). What we do need is more Jesus in our lives, and that means giving Him more undivided attention in our lives.
I know for myself, the days that start with Bible and prayer and just thinking about Jesus and talking with Him and worshipping in my office are the days that I don’t feel like I am overwhelmed or full of anxiety or anger. Mostly because when things come around to stress me out, I can refocus on the author and finisher of my faith and leave those feelings with Him. And the days I don’t make an effort to focus on Christ first, I never manage to refocus on Him as the day winds on.
Here is a simple thought for this year: Let us all commit ourselves to more regularly giving Jesus our undivided attention. And if we do that first, we can easily take Him with us throughout the day, and right on through the race!