“Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2 NKJV).
The Scripture does not conceal the truth that Christians will face hatred, sufferings, tribulations, or persecutions along the Christian race for the sake of Christ.
The Lord Jesus adequately prepared His disciples to expect and endure hatred from the world.
18 “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.
19 “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
20 “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.
21 “But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. (NKJV).
18 “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.
19 “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (NKJV).
Paul writes that we should be prepared to suffer persecution.
2 Timothy 3:
10 But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance,
11 persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra–what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me.
12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. (NKJV).
Peter also encourages us to take persecution patiently.
1 Peter 2:
20 For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.
21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:
22 “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”;
23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously. (NKJV).
Nevertheless, the Scripture offers Christians the hope, comfort, and strength that we need to run the race and endure to the finished line.
The Scripture aptly presents the testimonies of the victorious saints who have gone ahead of us in the race to glory so that we may learn from them and find strength and courage to march forward in the race (Rom. 15:4).
Like every other race, the Christian race is not without rules or guidelines (2 Tim. 2:5). These rules or guidelines are well spelt out in the Bible.
1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (NKJV).
First, Christians running the spiritual race must lay aside every form of weight – anything that can hinder, retard, or slow them down while running the race.
Second, Christians in the race must also lay aside the sin which so easily ensnares or entangles them. Any Christian who chooses to always pamper or indulge the flesh to fulfil its lusts and desires will not finish his race successfully.
Third, Christians must run the race with perseverance or patient endurance.
Like Apostle Paul, you must press on in the face of suffering, tribulation, or persecution, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead. You must always press forward toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:12-14).
Above it all, Christians running the spiritual race must continually, consistently or constantly be looking unto Jesus.
The Scripture commands every believer in the Christian race to be “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:2 NKJV).
No one can finish the Christian race successfully or victoriously without fixing his eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ.
What does it really mean to be looking unto Jesus while running the Christian race?
The word translated “looking” in Heb. 12:2 is a Greek word “aphorao” and it is from two words, “apo” and “horao.”
The word “apo” implies “separation” while the word “horao” implies “to see with the eyes; to see with the mind, to perceive, know; to see, i.e. become acquainted with by experience, to experience; to see, to look to, to stare at; to take heed, beware, to care for, pay heed to” (Thayer’s Bible Dictionary).
When put together, the word “aphorao” implies “to turn the eyes away from other things and fix them on something.”
Therefore, looking unto Jesus Christ implies turning your eyes or attention away from all others and fixing them only on Jesus Christ. It speaks of keeping or setting your heart, mind, or affection only on Christ as you run your race.
It simply means to constantly, consistently and continuously seek to see, to perceive, to know and experience Jesus Christ more deeply, intimately, and increasingly, and to take heed to or listen to His voice, words, commands or instructions as you run the Christian race.
Why must Christians be looking unto Jesus Christ while running the race?
Firstly, Because God the Father from heaven called our attention to Jesus Christ, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (Matt. 17:5 NKJV).
Therefore, not looking unto Jesus or listening to Him above anyone else is rejecting God’s testimony concerning His Son, thereby calling God a liar (1 John 5:9-11).
Secondly, Because Jesus Christ is the Author and the Finisher of our faith, or the Pioneer and the Captain of our salvation (Heb. 2:10).
The Lord Jesus was the first person to run and finish successfully the race we are called to run. He was the first to tread the path we are called to tread. He was the first to bear and endure the cross we are called to bear and endure daily. He was the first to live the life of faith we are called to live (Heb. 2:10, 5:8-9).
In the Christian race the Lord Jesus Christ is the only Perfect Example, Model, or Teacher worth looking unto steadfastly, obeying and trusting implicitly, emulating completely, and trusting and following wholeheartedly (Heb. 4:15-16, Heb. 2:10-11).
While it is good to learn from the saints of old and contemporary saints; however, we must be very wary of following any spiritual leader blindly or obeying him implicitly. The Scripture admonishes us to only follow or imitate men as they also follow or imitate Christ.
Paul cautions, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1 NKJV).
Thirdly, we must continually and steadfastly fix our eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ lest we become weary, fainting, and discouraged in times of trials and tribulations.
The Scripture admonishes, “For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.” (Heb. 12:3 NKJV).
While your fellow Christian in the race may not really understand what you are going through, or may not be available or able to offer you any encouragement, support, help or succour when you need it most, the Lord Jesus is ever present, willing and ready to encourage, comfort, strengthen, or help you in the race till you finish triumphantly.
Therefore, it is wisdom to turn your eyes away from mortal men and fix them only on Christ who can never forsake or fail you.
18 For inasmuch as He has Himself felt the pain of temptation and trial, He is also able instantly to help those who are tempted and tried. (WNT).
15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. (NKJV).
Beloved, God has set the Lord Jesus Christ before you as your perfect and ultimate example and standard in everything. Therefore, as you run the race God has set before you, ensure that you fix your eyes constantly, consistently and continuously only on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Spend time daily to commune privately and intimately with the Lord Jesus. Delight in the teaching of Christ, diligently meditate in His words and obey His words. Also, deny yourself, pick up your cross daily and follow in the footsteps of Christ.
At the end of your race, in the presence of God and His holy angels and saints, the Lord Jesus will deliver your imperishable crown to you, saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” (Matt. 25:21 NKJV).
Friend, the Lord Jesus is saying to you today, “Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.” (Rev. 3:11 NKJV).
Prayer: My Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for giving me a Perfect High Priest, Christ Jesus, who is able to sympathize with my weaknesses and help me when I am being tempted. Help me Holy Spirit to turn my eyes away from all others and fix them steadfastly only on Christ, in Jesus’ name. Amen.